PRE COP27 ANALYSIS: The water crisis and the Conference of the Parties (COP)

by Augustin Dagbetin

Water and climate change

The world is currently facing a water crisis, which has proven to be fuelled in large part by the climate crisis, among other factors. This vital resource is becoming more scarce, unpredictable and polluted due to extreme weather events [1]. Many reports convey that climate change is already affecting water access for people around the world, causing more severe droughts and floods [2,3].  In a recent report by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), there were around 11,000 disasters between 1970 and 2019 that were related to weather, climate, and water hazards, resulting in over 2 million deaths and a 3.64 trillion USD loss in costs [3]. The report further illustrates that storms were the most common source of devastation, causing the greatest economic losses worldwide. Other natural hazards brought about by climate change include long dry spells, the effects of which are already being felt all around the world. In Brazil, a cold outbreak at the end of July made the drought and resulting agricultural losses worse, harming several coffee-growing regions [4]. In other parts of the world, long-term drought continues to persist; according to the Africa 2021 report, parts of Southern Africa, particularly the Northern and Eastern Cape Provinces of South Africa, continue to face challenges [5]. 

The aforementioned hazards depict a gloomy water crisis, which we have been propelled into because of climate change. As such, both climate change and water must be debated at COP27. It is important to note that Egypt, the host country for the COP27, faces several serious risks from climate change that could reduce water supplies and adversely impact agriculture, economy, human health, and ecosystems [6]. Egypt’s own challenges relating to water and the climate may play a significant role in deciding whether to debate water at COP27. 

What are we expecting to be discussed at COP27?

Throughout COP, water has not been overlooked. At COP22 in Marrakech for instance, a day was devoted to action on water issues, providing stakeholders with an opportunity to spotlight water as a way of providing solutions to help implement the Paris Agreement [7]. Last year in Glasgow, COP26 underscored the role of water and nature for both adaptation to climate impacts and contributing to solutions to the climate crisis [8]. For COP27 14 November 2022 has been scheduled to be fully dedicated to water. 

Since the Paris Agreement entered into force in 2016 and many parties have drawn up their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), it is important for the countries at COP27 to showcase how far they have gone in implementing their NDCs. This will help illustrate the current state of affairs and incentivise the parties that are falling behind to improve on their adaptation and/or mitigation strategies. It is clear that some countries are more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change than others. Therefore, the debate at COP27 should also cover the development of water-related climate adaptation technologies and their transfer from developed to developing countries. This will help the latter to improve their resilience against climate change. For instance, many African countries are still experiencing droughts and long dry spells due to a lack of effective warning systems. As such, it is essential to help those countries develop multi-hazard early warning systems (MHEWS) so as to control extreme events. Furthermore, many developed countries have successfully implemented Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA) measures as part of the fight against climate change. EbA uses biodiversity and ecosystem services as part of an overall adaptation strategy to help people to adapt to the adverse effects of climate change [9]. Such adaptation measures must be developed and sustained in vulnerable countries. 

Finally, it is essential that discussions on 14 November 2022 at COP27 tackle the pressing issue of transboundary water resources management. Around 2 billion people worldwide depend on transboundary basins for their drinking and domestic water, irrigation, industry operation, energy production, and ecosystem preservation [10]. As such, riparian countries must cooperate to manage the common resource in a sustainable manner. In this regard, we expect the debate on “Water Day” at COP27 to look into current challenges facing transboundary water management, such as the burgeoning concern over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam between Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt. With this, there is hope that sound regulations and innovations for generating sustainable transboundary water resources management will be both developed and implemented to create effective solutions. 


[1] UNWater, 2021, Water and Climate Change, URL:
[2].National Geographic Society, 2022, How Climate Change Impacts Water Access, URL:
[3] World Meteorological Organization, 2021, WMO atlas of mortality and economic losses from weather, climate, and water extremes 1970–2019, Issue WMO-No. 1267, URL:
[4] UN Climate Change, 2021, State of Climate in 2021: Extreme Events and Major Impacts, URL:
[5] World Meteorological Organization, 2021, State of the Climate in Africa 2020, Issue 1275, URL:
[6] UNITED NATIONS ECONOMIC COMMISSION FOR EUROPE, 2015, Policy Guidance Note on the Benefits of Transboundary Water Cooperation.
[7] UN SDGs, 2016, COP22 spotlights water as part of the climate change solution


[8]SIWI, 2021, SIWI: “COP26 is a step forward for water in climate action”


[9] Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), 2009, Connecting Biodiversity and Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation: Report of the Second Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group on Biodiversity and Climate Change. Technical Series No. 41. Montreal, Canada, 126 pp. URL:
[10] UNITED NATIONS ECONOMIC COMMISSION FOR EUROPE, 2015,Policy Guidance Note on the Benefits of Transboundary Water Cooperation.
Categories COP27

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