Water, water, simultaneously everywhere and nowhere on the global agenda
This month, Group of Seven (G7) energy and environment ministers met in Sapporo, Japan to haggle over climate targets. Most current media coverage of the G7 is on a possible near-total G7 export ban to Russia, not the environmental talks. Fair enough. But something small caught my attention in the environment ministers’ communiqué. They talk about the “triple global crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution.” Water is at once notably absent and universally present in that framing.
Of course where your electricity will come from in 2050 matters. But when you think about how climate change will be directly experienced – is already being experienced – it is through water: droughts, floods and landslides, pollution, wildfires, food insecurity, rising seas, public health, gender inequality, and so on.
Water is truly the face of climate change for most of us, and yet it so often feels like a second-tier issue on the global agenda. The UN Water Conference in New York at the end of March was the first time in 46 years the UN has actually held a conference on water, which is pretty unbelievable.
The country of Peru has become a world leader in public investment in nature-based solutions for water and climate security. Like water, Peru flies under the radar somewhat when it comes to the climate change agenda – but what’s happening there represents an incredible paradigm shift. Peru’s success lies in shifting the system that surrounds decisions about infrastructure investment: avoiding the trap of standing up a few nature-based demonstration projects with limited ability to scale, Peru is deeply changing the way key institutions understand risk and approach infrastructure planning across government agency silos. And in changing the faces of those institutions themselves, by hiring more women and centering gender equality as fundamental to water security.
Peru’s success is also thanks to policy innovations that often appeared small at the time but have powerful implications, such as a short provision included in the 2015 Modernization of Sanitation Services Law that water utilities should invest in watershed conservation, or tweaking the rules for post-disaster expedited public funding to include ecosystems.
The result is now more than a quarter billion dollars committed to new investment in natural infrastructure for water in Peru in less than five years.
Systems change and sneak attacks – this is how we need to work. We were in great company at the Nature Hub during the UN Climate Conference in New York City in March. The lessons shared in New York are captured in a new article on our website and excerpted below. And stay tuned for a new report series coming this spring on what the world can learn from Peru. We want to make sure the lessons we’re learning on this journey to mainstream natural infrastructure investments are reaching people who can use them.
– Michael Jenkins