Soft Launch of International Panel on Deltas and Coastal Zones at COP 27

22 Nov 2022 by The Water Diplomat

Mark Harbers, Minister of Infrastructure and Water

During the first ever water day at a Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC, a soft launch was held of the International Panel on Delta’s and Coastal Zones. Opening the session, Henk Ovink, the Water envoy of the Netherlands, emphasised that water is a solutions provider in the field of mitigation and adaptation. He pointed out that we need better examples of investment, better examples of projects that can be scaled and replicated, better examples of governance and data, examples of policies and practices, examples of getting vulnerable communities out of harm’s way, and ensure an environment that is resilient, equitable and sustainable and which can catalyse climate action from places that are vulnerable.  Deltas, and Small Island States are critically vulnerable but also provide opportunities in the field of water in climate action.

The Dutch Minister of Water and Infrastructure, Mark Harbers, emphasised that the formation of strong partnerships is important to overcoming vulnerability.  The urgency, he stated, is undeniable: the number of climate related disasters has increased by 30% over the past ten years. In 2020, 50 million people were affected by floods and droughts, and 90% of natural disasters are related to water. In all scenario’s the risks to deltas and coastal zones are high to very high: the world’s deltas are low lying and densely populated and they are currently home to some 800 million people. Deltas are also of huge economic value: their location is strategically favourable, their soils are fertile, and they are home to a unique biodiversity. Climate change is putting a lot of pressure on them, and adaptation is needed in ways that are affordable, integrated and flexible. However, no country needs to do this alone: deltas and coastal cones can work together to strengthen each other, share solutions and funding together. The Netherlands has direct experience of these issues: 25% of the Netherlands is located below sea level, and 60% of the country is vulnerable to flooding, and this area is where some 70% of Dutch GDP is earned. The Netherlands has a national delta programme for flood protection, conservation of freshwater and spatial planning. The Netherlands has also drawn up National Climate Adaptation Strategy to give all sectors guidance in adapting to climate change, an experience in which it has drawn on lessons from abroad but from which it has drawn lessons it would like to share. It is in this context that the International Panel on Delta’s and Coastal Zones is being launched to support countries in the elaboration of their National Adaptation Plans. The Netherlands has allocated 2,5 million Euros to this initiative, it is establishing the Secretariat at Deltares in Delft, and it would like to encourage other countries to join.

The IPDC was initiated by the Netherlands Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, Deltares, the Global Center on Adaptation, and the Delta Alliance. The champions group consists of Mark Harbers, the Minister of Infrastructure and Water of the Netherlands, Dr Abdul Momen, he Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh, Dr Hani Sewilam, the Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation of Egypt the Netherlands, Ms Neeta Pohkrel, chief of the Water Sector Group of the Asian Development Bank, Lillian Macharia, the director for portfolio Management of the Green Climate  Fund, and Cynthia Houniuhi, president of the Pacific Islands Students Fighting Climate Change.

The main objective of the IPDC is to accelerate integrated cross sectoral planning and implementation of climate actions, which it aims to do through the provision of science-based information, tools and scenarios. The IPDC intends to work in a demand-driven manner, determined by national policies but ensuring collaboration at all levels. At the international level, the IPDC consists of a Champions Group supported by an International Expert Panel, linking to Action holders in the deltas themselves.

While the official launch of the IPDC will take place in New York in March 2023, the Champions will work to host a series of events to build partnerships and align with existing initiatives such as the Water and Climate Coalition and the Water Tracker. Also, the team will be working on the establishment of the IPDC Secretariat, the preparation of the knowledge agenda for climate adaptation and the implementation of IPDC pilots for selected coastal areas and delta’s.