Water and Climate

The climate crisis is a water crisis. To tackle the climate crisis, we must understand how it is intrinsically linked to changes in the water cycle. We need to prepare ourselves for a future with more severe droughts and floods, with more unpredictable rainfall patterns and dramatically rising sea levels. Our best chance is to focus on smart, water-related solutions that build resilient societies and ecosystems whilst cutting greenhouse gas emissions and improving carbon storage. This is the next generation of climate solutions.



The race is on – by 2050, the world’s greenhouse gas emissions must be down to net zero. To encourage more stakeholders to commit to this ambition and accelerate action, SIWI is playing a leading role in the Race to Zero campaign. Our Water Day on 12 November presented a promising new generation of climate solutions that use water and nature to help us decarbonize.

The shift to a net-zero future is already underway, driven by new technology, the rapid expansion of renewable energy and a growing movement of committed countries, cities, companies, investors, and citizens including youth. To speed up progress, the Race to Zero campaign encourages many more governments and non-state actors to join the growing Climate Ambition Alliance and reach net-zero emissions before mid-century.

SIWI is one of the lead partners in the 9-19 November Race to Zero November Dialogues, a ten-day virtual event supported by the High-Level Champions of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The aim is to develop concrete steps for how ten different sectors of society, including water, can reach net-zero emissions by 2050. 

On 12 November, Water Day was organized by SIWI and partners. The full-day event featured more than 30 of the world’s most influential thinkers on water and climate. Watch it here to learn from the World Bank’s Jennifer Sara, UNEP’s Inger Andersen,  food expert Ertharin Cousin, Matt Damon of water.org,  Professor Johan Rockström, T Prabhushankar from the city of Chennai, the Chinese environmentalist Ma Jun and many, many others.

The Water Day contributed to creating a Climate Action Pathway for water, an ongoing endeavour in which SIWI plays a leading role, together with other organizations in the Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action. Learn more about the Climate Action Pathway here.

It is important to note the encouraging trend – in the past year, of net-zero commitments have doubled, according to a new report. A growing number of institutions also take The Leader’s Pledge for Nature to reverse biodiversity loss by 2030.

But the positive change can be further accelerated by a promising new generation of climate solutions that use water and nature to help us decarbonize and become resilient in the face of climate change. This is because the climate crisis, simply put, is a water crisis. We experience global warming primarily in the form of increasingly damaging droughts and floods. This is a growing threat since we will see much more extreme and unpredictable weather patterns, even if we manage to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. As the planet gets warmer, all sectors of society will suffer from the drastic changes to the water cycle, and everyone will need to adapt.

The good news is that we can make societies and ecosystems more resilient by placing water at the centre of climate and development policies. Interest is growing in water-related, nature-based solutions, more holistic management of water and landscapes, synergies found at the water-energy-food nexus, smarter city planning and a slew of other approaches that tap the potential of water to tackle the climate crisis. Many of these solutions multi-task, as they can for example simultaneously boost nature’s ability to store carbon, improve biodiversity, and help societies cope with extreme weather events and global pandemics such as Covid-19.

SIWI contributes to global climate action by raising awareness and sharing knowledge. We advise countries on how water solutions can strengthen their Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris agreement, and provide capacity-building to enhance the role water can play in tackling the climate crisis.

Learn more about SIWI’s work on water-wise climate solutions here!

We are planning many more climate action activities leading up to next year’s climate summit COP26 – stay tuned for more updates!

Water Day on 12 November

This full-day event brought together some of the world’s leading experts who shared their insights into how a water perspective and water solutions can help us tackle the climate crisis more effectively.

You watch the recordings here. Here are some of the topics discussed: 

Vision of a zero-carbon, resilient future through Water | Watch

The session explored the untapped potential of nature-based and water-related climate solutions with speakers such as the Pope Francis’s chief advisor on climate change Cardinal Peter Turkson; Matt Damon and Vedika Bhandarkar from Water.org;  Ulrika Modéer, UNDP; Martha Rojas Urrego, Ramsar Convention on Wetlands and Johan Rockström, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

Racing to Zero along the Climate Action Pathway for Water 

Read more about the Water Climate Action Pathway here.

Protecting People and Restoring Water Resources and Ecosystems | Watch

Addresses from Inger Andersen, UNEP and Ma Jun Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs of China.

Producing food, energy, and infrastructure | Watch

Keynote speakers: Ertharin Cousin, Former Executive Director of World Food Programme; Mechthild Worsdorfer, International Energy Agency; and Jennifer Morris,The Nature Conservancy.

Water Reuse Renaissance | Watch

With examples from Chennai and Mexico.

Building Business Water Resilience | Watch

Jason Morrison, CEO Water Mandate, lead a discussion with Sanda Ojiambo, CEO and Executive Director, the UN Global Compact; Carine Smith Ihenacho, Chief Governance & Compliance Officer, NBIM; and Emilio Tenuta, Senior Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer, Ecolab.

The Water Day was organized by SIWI, along with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Alliance for Global Water Adaptation (AGWA), UN Global Compact, CEO Water Mandate, and the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), with the support of the UNFCCC’s Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action.  

 Watch Water Day here!

The climate crisis is a water crisis. It is only when we realize this that we can come up with solutions that are effective enough to make a real difference. Here is what you need to know about water and climate.

The word “water” may not be what immediately springs to mind when you think about climate change – but it should be. The most dramatic effect of climate change is how it impacts the water cycle

This will play out in many different ways, all of them potentially dangerous:

Weirder weather and stranger seasons | Around the world, seasons and precipitation patterns (rain and snow) are getting more and more unpredictableputting ecosystems under pressure and making it increasingly difficult for people to access food and water. One example is how the monsoon system is becoming more erratic, which impacts food and water security for a quarter of the global population.

A sharp increase in disasters | Most extreme weather events are water-related, whether its floods, droughts or hurricanes. Changes to the water cycle could make such disasters both more frequent and more severePoor and vulnerable groups will suffer the mostwiping out decades of progress in reducing poverty.


Dangerously rising sea levels | The rapid melting of snow and ice, including retreating glaciers, is causing an alarming rise in sea levels. Many of the world’s most populous cities, such as Mumbai, Shanghai and New York, could eventually be underwater. New research indicates that the effect will be far more drastic than previously believed.

Parts of the Earth could become
uninhabitable |
 A combination of higher temperatures and an altered water cycle will put ecosystems and societies in many parts of the world under extreme stress.

A growing risk of tipping points | We have already surpassed several of the ecological thresholds mapped by science. Scientists fear tipping points, which is where processes spiral out of control – for example, thawing permafrost could release greenhouse gases to an extent that amplifies global warming. 

The common thread between these diverse threats is that they are all linked to impacts on the water cycle. These threats can only be managed if the delicate balance of the water cycle is restored. The climate crisis is a water crisis and must be treated as such. 

We choose what the world will look like in 2050!

Looming water and climate threats 

Food production falls by 30 per cent
Without adaptation, climate change may depress global agriculture yields by up to 30 per cent by 2050. Africa will be hit particularly hard since the continent is expected to get much drier while its population could almost double. The UN has recently warned that southern Africa is already in the throes of a climate emergency, with rapidly growing hunger. 

Sea-level rise threatens the world’s largest cities
By 2050, many of the world’s most populous cities will be below sea level. New research shows that this may impact three times as many people as previously believed. 

Megacities such as Mumbai (estimated to be the world’s largest city in 2050), Shanghai, Dhaka, Lagos, Tokyo and New York are all at risk. 

Weather extremes can become yearly events
Among the many shocking revelations in the 2019 IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and the Cryosphere in a Changing Climate was the warning that disasters previously hitting mankind once in a century could have become a yearly occurrence by 2050. The report also noted that by 2050, one billion people are expected to live in low-lying coastal zones. 


… that could be solved 

Food production gets smart
Major investments in agriculture can help the world avoid a hunger crisis. By 2050, smallholder farmers in southern Africa could be more food secure through for example rainwater harvestingagroforestry and small-scale irrigation. New technologies and more research can help us develop robust crops and water-efficient solutions. 

Resilient cities rise above water levels
If we keep the global temperature increase below 1.5 degreeswe can limit the damage from rising sea-levels – but a new approach to city planning is also needed. By 2050, all cities should be built to be resilient and make use of existing landscapes. Coral reefs, mangroves and wetlands can protect us from rising water levels. 

Extreme weather has reduced impact
By 2050, more people could survive disasters if we focus on boosting societies’ resilience. This includes better buildingsnew early-warning systems and smarter planning. Protect wetlands and let them buffer against floods and recharge groundwater, even during dry spells. Invest in wastewater treatment and safe sanitation so that people can cope with a growing number of diseases. 


A growing number of countries are turning to water-related solutions to cut and store carbon and boost resilience, but much more can be done. SIWI helps countries, cities and companies ratchet up their climate ambitions and actions by tapping the transformative potential of water. Here are ten powerful examples.

Good water governance |

On a hotter planet, we can expect intensified competition at the regional, national, and local level over increasingly scarce and unpredictable water resources. To cope with this, and even thrive, good water governance must be a key priority in a changing climate to ensure that water is protected for both people and nature to get their fair share. Societies need to place a higher value on water to encourage efficiency and reuse instead of waste and pollution.

SIWI’s experts provide policy advice to decision-makers as well as technical training to increase innovation and resilience across the water sector. We stress the role of indigenous knowledge, gender perspectives, and a human rights-based approach to ensure that water governance is more inclusive and effective.

Nature-based solutions |

Nature not only produces oxygen but helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions, filter water, and protect against drought and flooding. The starting point in all urban and rural planning must be to assess which natural resources exist or have existed in the area and which functions and services they perform.

In today’s rapidly urbanizing world, cities are often expanded with little regard for how water will be recharged, how nature offers protection from natural disasters or how surrounding farmlands will be impacted. Many coastal cities have made themselves unnecessarily vulnerable by removing estuaries, deltas, and wetlands that could have offered protection from rising sea levels and flooding. SIWI advocates for increased use of water-centred nature-based solutions.

Preparing for the worst |

Globally, water-related disasters have accounted for almost 90 per cent of the 1,000 most devasting natural disasters since 1990. When preparing for a climate future where water-related disasters will become both more frequent and more severe, we must include more nature-based solutions and water expertise already at the planning stage.

In the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report, water has been ranked among the top five risks in terms of impact every year since 2015, and almost all of the most-cited risks are strongly water-related.

Water-smart cities |

By 2050, there will be 2.5 billion more city-dwellers in the world. New cities must be planned, and existing cities retrofitted, to be more resilient to increasingly extreme weather disasters. Buildings should be built with water-efficient construction materials that allow for groundwater infiltration and equipped with energy-efficient sewage and wastewater treatment systems. Green zones and green infrastructure act as carbon sinks, recharge and filter water, and buffer against extreme weather.

A growing number of cities apply nature-based solutions, including making the protection of wetlands part of city planning. To ensure that urban residents have reliable and adequate access to clean water and safe sanitation, cities will require a lot of innovation and investments, with new solutions to reduce, reuse, and recycle water and wastewater resources. SIWI is a partner of the City Water Resilience Approach (CWRA) which offers a step-wise methodology to guide cities on how to develop urban water resilience, supported by a set of tools and resources.

Integrated landscape management |

Sustainable landscape management is essential for climate mitigation, as well as for food and water security, disaster risk reduction, and biodiversity. The water-forest-landscape dimension needs to be mainstreamed into decision-making at all levels so that we maintain vital ecosystems, restore degraded ecosystems, and use practices for agriculture and forestry that are sustainable in the long term. An important aspect of good water governance is to establish mechanisms for cooperation over shared water resources. SIWI offers leading expertise related to the water, forests, landscapes, and agriculture nexus.


Water-efficient agriculture |

Without adaptation, climate change may depress growth in global agriculture yields up to 30 per cent by 2050. The 500 million small farms around the world will be most affected. Agriculture is also a major water user and contributor to water pollution, which are other reasons why this is one of the most important water and climate challenges. In coming years, we need more research and investments in new crops, changed behaviour among consumers and farmers, improved irrigation, and adaptations to traditional methods such as rainwater harvesting and agroforestry. New technology could make it possible to reduce water use, for example through precision farming.

SIWI’s senior advisors Professor Malin Falkenmark and Professor Jan Lundqvist are among the world’s leading thinkers on water and agriculture and the organization has a strong track record for innovative work on water and food.

A source-To-sea approach |

In the past few years, scientists have gained a much better understanding of the role of oceans and water in the climate system; and this must now be transformed into action. Since almost all marine pollution comes from land-based sources, the focus should be on improving wastewater treatment and imposing stricter control of nutrient leakage from agriculture. Protecting and restoring ecosystems such as estuaries, deltas, and wetlands are of crucial importance to limit the risks of inundation and saltwater intrusion. Since these challenges are interlinked, we need a new kind of governance system to address them. SIWI has developed the source-to-sea methodology to address climate change by improved dialogue and cooperation amongst different actors and sectors in order to reduce governance fragmentation and address complex interlinkages, cascading effects, and uncertainties.

Transboundary Co-operation |

Countries sharing a freshwater resource – a transboundary river, lake, or aquifer – will be less vulnerable to climate risks if they cooperate to share knowledge and data, improve food security, energy production, access to water, and protection of the environment. SIWI supports these processes where water diplomacy, knowledge-sharing, transparency and open data are important tools. With increasing water stress, it is important to work more actively with climate-smart security.

Integrated Water and finance |

The business sector’s engagement is crucial to making the world carbon neutral by 2050 and to make that happen, investors must be able to analyze and calculate water risks in their portfolios. SIWI’s Swedish Water House supports this through a cluster group on sustainable finance.

Water and nationally determined contributions |

As demonstrated by these examples, water offers numerous opportunities to address both the causes and impacts of climate change. At the same time, it contributes to meeting several of the Sustainable Development Goals laid out in the 2030 Agenda, such as reducing hunger, improving health, reaching gender equality, protecting land-based and underwater ecosystems and improving access to water and sanitation. But to unleash the full potential of water-related solutions they must be planned for and integrated into countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) under the Paris Agreement. A growing number of countries turn to SIWI’s and UNDP’s Water Governance Facility for policy and technical advice on how to do this successfully.


To tackle the climate crisis effectively, more people must understand that it is a water crisis. Here’s what you can do.


Knowledge is essential. Sign up to SIWI’s newsletter, to get new knowledge, follow the debate and be inspired by creative solutions from around the world. 


The 2020 UN World Water Development Report looks at the complex interlinkages between water and climate. SIWI’s Maggie White and Marianne Kjellén from UNDP are two of the contributors.  

World Water Day |

In 2020 World Water Day was on 22 March. Due to global events, we postponed our celebration of it until the hydrological new year: 30 September 2020. We hosted a day of discussion with water experts focusing on the role of water in climate change both on a national and international scale.

Watch Event [in Swedish]:

Regarding Water and Climate ? Please contact us.
The Water Dialogues will run from 8:00 GMT/ 9:00 CET to 17:30 GMT/ 18:30 CET on 12 November 2020. The language of the events will be English, and simultaneous interpretation in Spanish and in French will be provided via Zoom.

09.00 – 09.45 CET | Welcome Session | Watch

Opening and introduction of Race to Zero and the theme of Water Day “Vision of a zero-carbon, resilient future through Water” at Race to Zero November Dialogues

Opening remarks | COP25 Chile and COP26 UK High-Level Champions Gonzalo Munoz and Nigel Topping

Welcome messages |

Torgny Holmgren, Executive Director, SIWI

Stewart Maginnis, Global Director, Nature-based Solutions Group, IUCN

John Matthews, AGWA, Executive Director 

High-level messages |

Cardinal Peter Turkson, Holy See Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development Prefect

Matt Damon, Co-Founder, Water.org and WaterEquity [Video]

Vedika Bhandarkar, Chief Global Impact Officer, Water.org

Ulrika Modéer, UN Assistant Secretary-General and UNDP Assistant Administrator and Director of the Bureau of External Relations and Advocacy

Martha Rojas Urrego, Secretary-General of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands 

Keynote | Johan Rockström, Director, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research

09:45 – 10:00 CET | Presentation: Racing to Zero along the Climate Action Pathway for Water | Watch

Presentation of the Climate Action Pathway for Water and its centrality to Water Day at Race to Zero November Dialogues by High-Level Champions Team Water Lead Cate Lamb, MPGCA Water Group Co-Focal Points James Dalton (IUCN), and Jennifer Jun (SIWI).

10:00 – 11:30 CET | Protecting People and Restoring Water Resources and Ecosystems | Watch

Presentations and breakout discussions featuring transformative ideas and solutions that protect people and restore water resources and ecosystems in the Race to Zero. Scene-setting keynotes by high-level speakers, followed by moderated breakout group discussions, back to plenary for Mentimeter-facilitated Q&A

Keynote speakers |

Inger Andersen, Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme

Ma Jun, Founder of Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, China 

Breakout sessions |

Power of clean water and sanitation in building climate justice | WaterAid | Join

Index-based Flood and Drought Insurance | IWMI | Join

Scaling up the Power of Wetlands for Ambitious Climate Action | Wetlands International | Join

11:30 – 12:00 CET | Spotlight session: Non-party stakeholders’ Commitments to the Water Action Pathway | Watch

Presentations featuring various commitments to harness the potential of water for global climate action

  • SDG 6 Global Acceleration Framework, Federico Properzi 

  • Source-to-Sea Action Platform, Ruth Mathews

  • CDP’s Cities Water Disclosure, Kyra Appleby


12:00 – 13:30 CET | Producing food, energy, and infrastructure | Watch

Presentations and breakout discussions featuring transformative ideas and solutions that value water in the production of food, energy, and sustainable infrastructure in the Race to Zero. Scene-setting keynotes by high-level speakers, followed by moderated breakout group discussions, back to plenary for Mentimeter-facilitated Q&A.

Keynote speakers |

Ertharin Cousin, Fellow at Stanford University and former Executive Director of World Food Programme

Mechthild Worsdorfer, Director of Sustainability, Technology and Outlooks, International Energy Agency

Jennifer Morris, CEO, The Nature Conservancy

Breakout sessions |

Securing Food for Africa through Rainfed Agriculture | SIWI Africa Regional Centre | Join

Keeping Rivers Healthy with Low Cost, Low Carbon Energy Solutions | WWF | Join

Unleashing Climate Finance for Critical Water Infrastructure: Green Bonds and Beyond | Alliance for Global Water Adaptation & Climate Bonds Institute | Join

13:30 – 14:00 CET | Spotlight session: Non-party stakeholders’ Commitments to the Water Action Pathway | Watch

Presentations featuring various commitments to harness the potential of water for global climate action

  • Soft launch of the Community of Water Adaptation Practice by the partners of the Water Action Track: Global Center on Adaptation, Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management of the Netherlands, World Bank, and World Resources Institute

  • UNDP Equator Prize and Prize Winner Community statement; Featuring Boon Rueang Wetland Forest Conservation Group of Thailand and Alianza Ceibo of Ecuador


14:00 – 15:30 CET | Water Reuse Renaissance | Watch

Presentations and breakout discussions featuring transformative ideas and solutions that catalyse the water reuse renaissance in the Race to Zero. Scene-setting keynotes by high-level speakers, followed by moderated breakout group discussions, back to plenary for Mentimeter-facilitated Q&A

Keynote speakers |

T Prabhushankar, Executive Director, Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board

Jessica Hernández, Manager of Studies and Projects, CONAGUA Mexico

Breakout sessions |

Decarbonizing urban water and wastewater management through the WaCCliM Roadmap | Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), International Water Association (IWA) | Join [MS Teams]

Wastewater Zero – Business Action and Commitment | World Business Council for Sustainable Development  | Join


15:30 – 16:00 CET | Non-party stakeholders’ Commitments to the Water Action Pathway | Watch

Presentations featuring various commitments to harness the potential of water for global climate action

Marta Colet, CEO, Aguas Andinas of Chile

Christine McGourty, CEO, Water UK


16.00 – 17.30 CET | Building Business Water Resilience | Watch

This session, co-organized by CEO Water Mandate/UN Global Compact and CDP,  will provide a platform to examine what levers of change will need to be activated to bring about transformational change to address the climate-water crisis, focusing on the role of business and the finance communities.

Sanda Ojiambo, CEO and Executive Director, the UN Global Compact

Carine Smith Ihenacho, Chief Governance & Compliance Officer, NBIM
Emilio Tenuta, Senior Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer, Ecolab
Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General, World Meteorological Organization
Jason Morrison, Head, CEO Water Mandate

18:00 – 18:30 CET | Closing session: Synthesis of ideas and recommendations for the Road to COP26 | Watch

What’s needed to cross the Race to Zero finish line? Scaling up solutions, setting science-based targets, securing investments, and moving policies on water

Our objective is to restate the pathway, lay out a concrete set of timebound, specific, actionable proposals for each key stakeholder group and gather commitments from the audience to support the pathway and make commitments. Mentimeter will be used to gather commitments from the audience to participate in and support the Pathway.

Summary remarks by SIWI, AGWA, IUCN representatives

Closing remarks:


Contact person: Jennifer Jun, Stockholm International Water Institute jennifer.jun@siwi.org | Tel: +46 720 50 60 01

Technology Platform: Zoom Webinar.

All segments were recorded. 

French and Spanish simultaneous interpretation was provided.

Watch the sessions here

Water is key to a zero-carbon future. The sustainable management of water resources and water-related ecosystem services hold significant and largely untapped climate mitigation potential. Water-based innovations in agriculture, energy, and urban planning and infrastructure can help cities, regions, businesses, and countries adapt and become more resilient to the impacts of climate change.

The current Covid-19 pandemic also reminds us that water as a resource is indispensable to healthy human life, and we need to protect, restore, and reuse it as climate change threatens its very availability.

This event will showcase the water community’s vision of a zero-carbon, resilient future and the water-related tools and solutions needed to win the Race to Zero. We aim to 1) generate wide and inclusive support for the Climate Action Pathway for Water; 2) spotlight innovative and evidence-based water initiatives that advance water sector transformation and catalyze systems change; and 3) demonstrate the growing ambition and proliferation of climate action commitments by non-state actors in the water sector to ensure that we run together toward the Race to Zero finish line.

Key messages |

Acting on water will accelerate our climate ambitions.

Water solutions exist, and they deliver remarkable outcomes for people, planet, and our collective prosperity.

We need to run together if we are to succeed.

There are significant and growing commitments from non-party stakeholders to deliver on climate goals through water and they call for greater ambition on water from governments

The target audience includes water and climate decision-makers and practitioners from civil society, local and regional governments, business, and academia from all over the world.

 Follow the Livestream here!


Organized by SIWI, AGWA, IUCN, CEO Water Mandate/UN Global Compact, CDP, and others

How the event will drive action:

  • This event will support sector transformation pathways by presenting a vision of the change we need to see in the world and highlighting water’s largely untapped potential for carbon mitigation and resilience. Through Mentimeter polls deployed throughout the segments, we will ask participants to vote for key aspects of the pathways they are willing to support and commit to.

  • The sessions will showcase solutions and how to take them to scale.

  • It will demonstrate the growing ambition and commitments of non-party actors and discuss how governments and financial institutions can match these, as well as provide recommendations for accelerating collective action for key players including policy makers, private sector, researchers, and NGOs implementing solutions on the ground. Among others, through testimonials, analysis of publicly available data, and storytelling, the event will demonstrate the growing ambition and progress of non-Party actors and a willingness to support more ambitious NDCs to deliver the Paris Agreement objectives as soon as possible.

  • Given the renewed focus on basic hygiene protocols (i.e. hand washing), the event will specifically explore the often-underrepresented linkages between climate change, water, health and community resilience, showcasing the opportunities to combat covid-19 spread and build back better.

  • It will bring together a wide range of stakeholders to help forge the collaborations needed to transform the sector and provide a platform to launch a suite of short term campaigns leading up to COP 26 Glasgow.