Speech by Steffi Lemke at the Side Event "Too much and too little – Accelerating IWRM for climate-resilient water management and ecosystem conservation"

Bundesministerin Steffi Lemke
Steffi Lemke opened the side event "Too much and too little" at the water conference in New York with a speech. The event focuses on holistic approaches such as integrated water resource management.

– Check against delivery –

Esteemed colleagues,
Minister Ève Bazaiba Masudi,
Minister Aly Seydouba Soumah,
Minister Garama Saratou Rabiou Inoussa,
Minister Suleiman Hussein Adamu,
Executive Secretary Abderahim Bireme Hamid,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

If we take today as an example, many of us have had early morning showers, a cup of tea or coffee with breakfast, not to mention the trips toilet during the break and sips of water to rehydrate. Now, let’s imagine what today would look like without water.

Here in New York on World Water Day, access to water is a given. But for many people worldwide, it remains the stuff of dreams. Dreams that the climate crisis has pushed even further away.

The challenges facing the water sector are immense and range from too much or too little water to contamination and, in some cases, battles over water. That is why, I am all the more pleased that we have come together today. We organised this event together with the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Niger Basin Authority to talk about concrete solutions.

Climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution are the existential crises of our time. They threaten our natural foundations of life, particularly the resource water. Sustainable water resources management is, at the same time, key to solving these crises.

Rivers, lakes, wetlands and other water-related ecosystems have to be conserved, renaturalised and restored. By doing this, we are giving a home to a diverse world of animals and plants. We are protecting natural carbon sinks and increasing resilience. When ecosystems are intact, they act as a natural filter against contamination.

In the video, we saw different types of water-related ecosystems: floodplains, peatlands, forests and the puna grasslands in Peru. They all harbour great potential for improving water retention in the landscape. They can help make not only our environment, but also our cities, towns and municipalities more resilient against the climate crisis.

Peatlands only cover about three percent of the global surface area. But they can store around 30 percent of all terrestrial carbon. Peatlands also provide habitats for plants and animals as well as storage capacity for water.

The Congo Basin is referred to as the lungs of Africa. It absorbs more carbon dioxide than the Amazon rainforest. Over 29 billion tonnes of carbon are stored in the Congo Basin. This equates to roughly three years’ worth of total global greenhouse gas emissions.

Protecting the Congo Basin means protecting its immense water resources. They are key to the sustainable development of the entire region – from electricity supply through to river transport.

70 percent of the population in the Niger Basin live in rural areas. Food security depends on unreliable rainfall and heavily fluctuating water levels in the rivers. In all nine countries bordering the Niger Basin, water is therefore essential

  • for security, stability and poverty reduction
  • and also for combatting desertification.

The Congolese environment ministry and the Niger Basin Authority have teamed up with our International Climate Initiative, the IKI, for two projects. We made this joint and voluntary commitment under the Water Action Agenda.

The IKI is an important part of Germany’s international climate finance. Together with developing countries and emerging economies, we want to find and implement adapted solutions. In these efforts, we are also focussing on:

  • mitigating emissions,
  • climate adaptation measures
  • and the fight against biodiversity loss.

We will learn more about these two projects later.

Beyond this, today’s event aims to help ensure that in future, all international commitments take water into account as a cross-cutting issue – in sustainable urban development, food security and energy supply and, of course, in the areas I already mentioned.

"Accelerating change" is the motto of World Water Day this year. I firmly believe that through partnership and by working together, we can achieve just that. However, we cannot afford to waste any more time.

And now, I would like to give the floor to my colleagues and political partners.

22.03.2023 | Speech Water & Waste & Soil

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