The EU needs a dedicated funding mechanism to help member states prepare and implement their national restoration plans on nature and lead the world on freshwater biodiversity, green group Nature Conservancy urged as global negotiators are gathered for the three-day UN Water Conference in New York.
Delegates are gathered at the UN headquarters to address how water as a natural resource is being depleted, polluted, and mismanaged.
“Water is in deep trouble,” UN General-Secretary Antonio Guterres said as the conference opened Wednesday.
“We are draining humanity’s life blood through vampiric overconsumption and unsustainable use, and evaporating it through global heating. We’ve broken the water cycle, destroyed ecosystems, and contaminated groundwater.”
Part of the water puzzle is freshwater biodiversity, with rivers, lakes, and wetlands holding a tenth of the world’s species but losing them faster than any other biome.
“This is the perfect opportunity for Europe to implement and promote effective freshwater policy in order to protect not only all species relying on these freshwater systems, but also the billions of people around the world who depend on rivers, lakes, and tributaries for their well-being,” the Nature Conservancy said.
It listed key policy recommendations for EU lawmakers required if the bloc is to show strong leadership of freshwater biodiversity, including on finance.
“[It] is essential that an effective financial system is put in place to mobilise resources in an expedited and predictable manner,” the group said.
The Nature Conservancy pointed out that biodiversity as of yet does not have a dedicated funding mechanism in Europe. Instead, available financial support is scattered between various Directorate Generals.
“The EU should add a mechanism to the current multiannual financial framework to assist member states with the preparation and implementation of national restoration plans,” it said.
“Such a system would further enable EU member states, as well as partner countries, to coherently plan and finance measures to assure implementation across all legislation within the Green Deal and beyond.”
The spread-out funding mechanisms currently in place have long been under fire for failing to provide sufficient finance for nature, with a report released in December by green groups EuroNatur and Bankwatch Network finding that the 10 Central and Eastern European EU members spent only 0.3% of their Recovery and Resilience Facility budgets on nature.
Freshwater management is covered in a growing number of regulations and frameworks, including the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, the EU Biodiversity Strategy, and the EU Nature Restoration Law (NRL), which the Nature Conservancy said the EU should adopt before year-end in order to create a clear roadmap for action.
“With many existing agreements now coming into effect, it is crucial that European policymakers focus not only on rapid implementation, but also coordination across the different multilateral commitments that have been made to improve freshwater ecosystems,” the Nature Conservancy said.
In terms of the NRL, that would involve member states readying national restoration plans that prioritise the most effective biodiversity outcomes and take a ‘whole system approach’.
“Member states should work together on protecting freshwater ecosystems, while using a cross-border approach. Rivers do not stop at borders and our restoration approach should not stop there either,” the group said.
These global and national frameworks translate into calls for action for businesses as well, along with initiatives like the Taskforce for Nature-related Financial Disclosures.
To help prepare for that, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and sustainability consultancy Quantis last week launched the Freshwater Accountability Accelerator, a guidance tool for corporations for setting water targets and disclosing water-related information.
“Our global water resources are at great risk, and so are businesses that depend and impact on them. The Freshwater Accountability Accelerator will aim to provide companies with a streamlined journey to identify pressing water challenges across their value chains,” Tatiana Fedotova, water global lead at Quantis, said in a press release.
“It will also support them with setting ambitious targets to operate within local planetary boundaries and reporting back on actions that contribute to global water security as much as their own business continuity and resilience.”
By Stian Reklev – email@example.com
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