Adapting to climate change in the field of water : typology & recommendations for action


The United Nations’ climate conferences (COP) aim to find responses to a number of fundamental challenges:

  • How can our greenhouse gas emissions be reduced ?
  • How can we adat to climate change?
  • How can we finance our mitigation of and adaptation to climate change, particularly in the Least Developed Countries (LDCs)?

Adaptation, a significant concern in developing countries, is an increasingly important part of climate negotiations. It is defined as the process of adjusting to the current or expected future climate, and its consequences, so as to attenuate harmful effects and take advantage of beneficial ones. A temperature increase of more than 2° Celsius forces the world to adapt. An increase of more than 4°C could cause a breakdown in water management especially in the most vulnerable countries.

Water is the principal vector by wich climate change impacts on societies and ecosystems, it has to be at the heart of issues and strategies for adapting to climate change. A large part of international and national funding should support adaptation actions in the water sector and in risk management. This is already the case for more than 80% of the funds for adaptation of the French Development Agency and approximately 60% for the Adaptation Fund.
82% of the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) presented for COP21 have an adaptation section. Among these contributions, 92% mention water, which indicates its high priority. The countries concerned are mainly developing countries.

With the adoption of a Water Goal in the United Nations’ 2015-2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the international community has recognised how important water management is to both people and the environment. It has begun defining indicators to monitor implementation of the Water Goal, which already gives an initial indication of what « sustainable water management » represents in changing contexts.
Adaptation is still difficult to define, both in climate negotiations and for the various decision-makers. Despite some progress, there is still a long way to go to characterise the concept and develop tools to guarantee transparency, follow-up and verification of adaptation actions focusing on water management. French water actors gathered within the French Water Partnership encourage the international community to extend its reflections on sustainable water management in the current context of climate change. To do so, they propose a number of recommendations and a typology of actions, while also underlining the importance of avoinding situations of maladaptation.