The Water Challenge: A World Political Forum Initiative

Posted on 08 December 2009 by editor

By Riccardo Petrella*

Riccardo Petrella

Riccardo Petrella

LOUVAIN (IPS/TerraViva) – Excluding water problems as such from the negotiations of the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) has been a serious historic error at a scientific, politic and social level. The same holds true for the exclusion of biodiversity.

Why an error? First of all, we mustn’t forget that the main greenhouse effect gas is steam (H2O), accounting for 75 percent of global warming. Carbon dioxide (CO2), the second greenhouse gas by importance, contributes 15 to 20 percent.

But most of all it is an error because it’s not possible to discuss a world treaty destined to influence the future of humankind and of life on our planet, without focussing on water, the essential and irreplaceable element for every form of life.

The mistake can be corrected, the future is not finished. That’s what we are asking for: to introduce water in the current negotiations.

This means including three goals among the priorities of global policy for sustainable and lasting development over the next decades: the universal human right to water; the protection and safeguarding of the planet’s water resources as a common good, human heritage and element essential to the functioning of ecosystems (prevention policies, water saving policies, fight against excessive and unjustified withdrawals, etc); and a public global water authority (to avoid the control of world water policies by private industrial and financial global groups) .

The inclusion of water would bring many advantages. It would promote the role of world common goods at the top of the agenda of strategies for mitigation and adaptation to climate change.

The conception behind the “still-to-be-written” new post-Kyoto treaty would be inspired by a vision of the future of life on Earth based on solidarity and public political responsibility, no more left only to the interests of private finance and the mechanisms of competitive world markets. Our societies would be guided by the principles of shared world security, greater economic justice and effective welfare for all.

On this basis, the World Political Forum is attending the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference to submit to the attention of the participants the Memorandum for a World Water Protocol drawn up by the “Peace with Water” international conference held at the European Parliament in Brussels on Feb. 12-13, co-chaired by WPF President Mikhail Gorbachev.

We are demanding in Copenhagen:

- The inclusion of the water issue on the agenda of the current climate negotiations. The most important ongoing global negotiations on the future of humankind cannot be exclusively devoted to energy problems. To more than three billion people, the most critical problems are food, access to water and health. A new world treaty on climate, the environment and the development agenda must include water as a key item.

- The decision to launch a multilateral UN-based process for the 2010-2012 period aiming at drafting and approving a World Protocol on Water. The international community has the needed political, economic, social, scientific and technical knowledge and expertise for the approval of such a Protocol. The problem is neither knowledge nor finance, but a question of changing priorities.

-  Recognition by the Parties of the urgent need for a global pact on water, the outcome of which would be the World Protocol on Water. To this end the Conference should endorse the creation of a global participative instrument for cooperation in the field of water such as a “United Nations Water Authority” (UNWA), the main task of which would be to prevent and settle international disputes on the property and use of water through common monitoring systems and collaborative transnational management, projects and institutions.

* Riccardo Petrella, Founder of the International Committee for the World Water Contract, Prof. Emeritus of Globalisation at the Catholic University of Louvain and member of the WPF’s Scientific Committee, Italy.

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