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Home » UK Backs Work to Protect Global Water and Food Supplies at COP28

UK Backs Work to Protect Global Water and Food Supplies at COP28

by Kit West
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UK scales up support for sustainable, climate-resilient farming practices, and improved access to clean water in climate-vulnerable countries

  • UK support will help farmers around the world adopt sustainable, climate-resilient practices.
  • Further new funding will help countries work towards water security and unlock investment in water management.
  • Smallholder farmers and rural organisations in Africa will have help to boost incomes without damaging forests.

The UK is scaling up a partnership with the World Bank to boost climate-resilient farming practices around the world, the UK’s International Development and Africa Minister Andrew Mitchell will announce at COP28 today (10 December).

While agriculture is vital for global food security and rural livelihoods, it is also a key driver of climate change and nature loss. Farmers on the front line of climate change suffer ever more frequent, severe weather impacts, including drought and floods.

Improving soil health, land management and efficient use of fertiliser are some of the changes the Just Rural Transition Support Programme will work with climate vulnerable partner countries to adopt so their agriculture policies are more productive and sustainable.

The UK will also provide £10 million through the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to help smallholder farmers and others improve their incomes in ways which reduce the impact on the natural world, particularly forests.

Climate change and deforestation mean that countries like Zambia are suffering droughts, which negatively affect their economies and food production. One example of how the programme will help is by supporting smallholder farmers in Zambia – many of whom are women in rural communities – to expand their businesses, by growing new crops, or improving the quality of their produce, linking them to export markets and planting trees to create more sustainable sources of raw materials.

These announcements follow on from last month’s UK hosted Global Food Security Summit, which brought together countries and international organisations to galvanise support for lasting solutions to prevent famine, wider food insecurity and malnutrition.

Today at COP28, the focus is also on water alongside food and agriculture. Agriculture accounts for 70% of freshwater use globally and causes 70% of water pollution. With the world facing an unprecedented and accelerating water crisis, rapid action is needed to ensure sustainable access to clean water. By 2030, it is estimated there will be a 40% shortfall in freshwater supply, with drastic consequences for people, planet and nature. Growing water insecurity, accelerated by climate change, is rapidly undermining the achievement of all the Sustainable Development Goals.

At the climate summit, Minister Mitchell will set out up to £39 million new funding for the newly launched Just Transitions for Water Security programme, to help countries manage water resources responsibly for the future.

The Just Transitions for Water Security programme will provide technical assistance to low-income and climate vulnerable countries so they can better manage their water resources. This in turn will strengthen climate resilience for the most vulnerable, support more sustainable food systems and improve drought and flood management, all while making sure everyone has access to clean water.

The programme will also help countries work towards water security and mobilise much-needed investment in water, such as large-scale rainwater harvesting.

International Development and Africa Minister Andrew Mitchell said:

Water is at the centre of the climate crisis. Water security must be driven up the global agenda.

My message is clear: we must protect water properly if we are to ensure equitable access for all. UK funding set out today will support water resilient supply chains, and boost investments to ensure this basic and vital source of life is available to vulnerable communities on the frontline of climate change.

Part of the Just Transitions for Water Security programme involves the Resilient Water Accelerator, led by WaterAid, which aims to boost investment in water systems.

Chief Executive of WaterAid Tim Wainwright said:

The climate crisis is a water crisis, with communities in low and middle income countries struggling daily with too little, too much, or too dirty water. WaterAid welcomes the UK government connecting the drops between climate change and water, committing at COP28 to invest up to £39 million into global water security.

WaterAid is happy to be supporting the Resilient Water Accelerator in unlocking private investment at pace. We hope other nations will join the UK in supporting adaptation projects that will build life-saving sustainable, climate-resilient water resources and services.

At COP28 the UK has also signed up to the Freshwater Challenge – launched at the UN Water Conference in March this year by the governments of Colombia, DR Congo, Ecuador, Gabon, Mexico and Zambia – to boost the restoration and conservation of freshwater ecosystems, recognising the essential role these habitats play in tackling climate change and supporting people and nature.

Last month as part of the recently published International Development White Paper, the UK committed to establish a cross-government global water security strategy that sets out the UK’s work on water security in the context of climate change and ensures coherence across sectors in water-related policy making.

These announcements demonstrate the UK’s commitment to deliver the objectives of the Emirates Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems and Climate Action. The UK was one of the first countries to endorse the declaration at the Global Food Security Summit last month and it is now supported by more than 130 countries. 

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