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Water and Climate – Proceed with Extreme Caution!

A crisis is developing in Durban at the climate summit. Even as powerful countries work hard to ensure we take no action on climate change, there is a bold attempt to try and make the climate negotiations the global arbiter of international water policy. Already the UNFCCC is the most complex international treaty that has ever been devised covering a vast territory that spans, finance, environment, science and technology, trade and everything in between. Now a small group which began working on this in Cancun is trying to get water officially in the negotiations. Last climate summit this was being promoted by 8 countries under SBSTA (which deals with scientific and technical issues within the UNFCCC climate summit), these countries were Mexico, Ecuador, Sudan, Syria, Chile, El Salvador, Sierra Leone and South Africa.

Now there is momentum for water as a separate agenda item, with support from AMCOW (African Ministers Conference on Water) and the Global Water Partnership, but there is a broader coalition which is working on this which we need to challenge, http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=106103.

They have formed under the Climate and Water Coalition and we saw them promoting this agenda in Cancun where we were fortunately able to block it being adopted, now they are being even more bold, http://www.waterclimatecoalition.org/.

Global Water Justice activists have had a long-standing concern, as the global water justice movement, against water being directly included in the climate negotiations. We have taken this position in Copenhagen and again in Cancun.

From our past discussions and statements, we have been against this because of the ever increasing market-based focus that is being adopted in the negotiations and mechanisms such as the Clean Development Fund and Green Fund and concern the resulting boost to water privatization and commodification would be a major setbacks to the victories our movement has had in recent years.

We do want water to be considered in the negotiations because the impacts on water by false solutions such as REDD can be catastrophic, but the focus of false solutions for adaptation will allow water pricing, water markets, water trading and big dams. All of these are things we have fought against for many years.

We believe that all of these neo-liberal mechanisms will do further harm to the environment, communities and people while actually furthering climate change rather than slowing it.

To try and block this, I have sent a note to friends who are working at the summit in Durban asking for their help. I have asked that they please assist by relaying our strong concerns about direct inclusion of water in the UNFCCC negotiations when they are talking to negotiators and ministers. Without safeguards for community rights, human rights and equity at the forefront of these deliberations I said that we are very concerned about inclusion of water as an official track in the negotiations.

I also reminded them that on July 28, 2010 the UN General Assembly recognized the human right to water and sanitation and this has been reaffirmed at the Human Rights Council.

It is important that we continue to remind UN Member States of their obligations related to this recognition, including the obligations to respect, protect and fulfill the human right to water and sanitation. This focus on false solutions within the UNFCCC; related to markets, big dams and water pricing, all risk violations to these international obligations that were hard won last year and which we need to keep pushing to get implemented.

What can you do? If you are in Durban or have access to your government, please consider contacting them directly and sharing concerns that water should not be included in the UNFCCC negotiations.

Finally, from past discussions, we have suggested that we believe positive solutions with reference to water is crucial when considering mitigation of climate change impacts, but we do not have confidence that the current focus and structure of the UNFCCC would promote these positive solutions over the current false solutions.

With Marseille and Rio around the corner it would be a major setback if water were officially included in the climate negotiations. We must do everything we can to stop this and promote our positive vision of water justice as a major step towards climate justice.