Opening Remarks of UN Resident Coordinator at the Workshop on Climate Change Impact in the Nile Basin

24 Feb 2013

Your Excellency Prime Minister of Egypt Dr. Hisham Kandil,  
Your Excellency Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation in Egypt Dr. Mohamed Bahaa El-Din,
Distinguished participants from Nile Basin Countries and UN sister agencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of the UN System in Egypt, it gives me great pleasure to welcome you all in the workshop on sharing experiences on climate change impacts in the Nile Basin.  In particular, I would like to welcome distinguished guests from Nile Basin Countries whose participation in the workshop demonstrates a long standing interest and commitment in cooperation among water experts and officials in the basin.  I am pleased that the UN has played an important role over the last decades in supporting the dialogue and cooperation among Nile Basin Countries on the national and regional levels.

I would like to take this opportunity to quote the UN Secretary General statement on the occasion of United Nations General Assembly designation of 2013 as the International Year of Water Cooperation in emphasizing that water is life and central to the well-being of people and the planet.  We need it for health, food security and economic progress.  Water holds the key to sustainable development.  Accordingly we must work together to protect and carefully manage this fragile, finite resource while each year brings new pressures on water with growing populations and climate change.

One-third of the world’s people already live in countries with moderate to high water stress.  Meanwhile, competition is growing between farmers and herders; industry and agriculture; town and city.  Upstream and downstream, and across borders, we need to cooperate for the benefit of all – now and in the future.  

Indeed, Climate Change is one of the most important and complex challenges facing humanity in the 21st Century.  According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, if greenhouse gas emissions trends are not fundamentally altered, global temperatures will rise between 1.4 and 5.8oC by the year 2100.  Over the next century global warming could speed up the melting of the polar ice caps, causing major flooding of lowlands, more frequent and extreme weather events disturbing normative hydrological cycles and global water distribution leading to changes in crop production.  The associated economic damage of climate change is immense and this danger is liable to undermine international cooperation efforts aimed at achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s) and beyond and it makes climate change an unparalleled threat to global human development.

Ironically, the world’s poorest bear little responsibility for the build-up of global warming gases in the earth’s atmosphere yet stand to bear the brunt of the social and economic consequences.  In the Nile Basin, it is expected that the water scarcity and Sea Level Rise would pose the main threats to this region thereby posing immense challenges to the agriculture sector and to economic activities that are concentrated in the coastal zones in Egypt.  For non-oil producing countries, the situation is aggravated by soaring oil prices associated with growing energy demand and increased levels of pollution linked to the consumption of fossil fuels.  The combined effect of the increased energy bill and interest to reduce pollution makes it timely for UN System to work on introducing GHG mitigation measures such as renewable energy resources and energy efficiency initiatives as well as supporting countries in adapting to climate change impacts

In recognizing these challenges, six UN agencies in Egypt (UNEP, UNIDO, UNDP, FAO, IFAD, and UNESCO) have joined forces with government authorities from the Ministry of State for Environmental Affairs, Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation, Ministry of Agriculture, and the Supreme Energy Council to formulate a joint programme that addresses both mitigation and adaptation to climate change funded by the UN-Spain MDG Achievements Fund (and here, let me thank the Government of Spain for their support).  Under the banner of management of Egypt’s climate change risks, the joint programme will support the adaptation aspect related to protecting Egypt’s three most vulnerable sectors namely, agriculture, coastal zones and water resources, from the impacts of climate change.  

In response to an earlier decision taken by the Council of Ministers of Water in Nile Basin Countries to develop tools to reduce uncertainty related to the climate change impacts on the basin, Egypt has requested to include a component in the Joint Progamme to support the development of a Regional Circulation Model for the Nile Basin and to share the results with the riparian countries.  Today while we are celebrating the first outputs coming out the model, I am confident that a lot of work is awaiting the researchers and scientists in your respective countries to generate futuristic scenarios and identify adaptation measures to advocate for decision makers endorsement of national adaptation plans.

This initiative is an integral part of the UN System commitment to support Nile Basin Countries to maintain its dialogue and respond to its developmental challenges including climate change on national and regional levels.

I wish you a fruitful workshop and for those who are coming from outside, I wish you a pleasant stay and safe trip back home.

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