Water experts issue call to action on climate

Article by Adam Duckett

AN alliance of experts from across the water sector, including from IChemE, has issued a call to action that commits water professionals to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

The call has been issued by the Water Climate Discussion, an alliance founded by IChemE’s Water Special Interest Group that includes partners from across the sector including the Institute of Water, Water Aid, and the International Water Association. The group has been hosting a series of online conferences since May to collaborate and facilitate change in the sector ahead of the crucial COP26 UN climate change conference starting on 31 October in the UK.

Cate Lamb, the UNFCC COP26 High Level Climate Action Champions Lead for Water issued the call (full text, below). It notes that wider society does not take seriously the role that water plays in climate change. The professionals have committed themselves to challenge existing operational practices in a bid to reduce emissions from the sector; and use life cycle assessments to inform decisions that will achieve the most beneficial change.

Martin Currie, Chair of IChemE’s Water SIG, said: “It has been wonderful collaborating across the international water sector on climate change. COP26’s focus on energy is understandable, but wastewater treatment releases much worse greenhouse gasses than CO2. Droughts, flooding and climate-impacts on water quality are already a part of life that the water sector must adapt to. The Water Climate Discussion produced a hierarchy of water climate issues, and potential solutions, before collectively drafting the Call to Action. We are also recording our individual Action Pledges which we will take to COP26 to highlight the breadth of climate action across the water sector.

“Please have a look at https://icheme.andeye.com/WaterClimateDiscussion where you can add to our issues and solutions hierarchy, share the Call to Action and record your own Water Climate Action Pledge. We’d also encourage other SIGs and member groups to collaborate beyond IChemE on climate action.”

The alliance includes IChemE, the International Water Association, Royal Society of Chemistry, Institute of Water, Water UK, British Water, Future Water Association, Royal Society of Biology, Society for the Environment, Institution of Civil Engineers, and Water Aid.

Water Climate Call to Action

Water is Climate

As water professionals, we recognise the water sector presents serious challenges, and also many solutions, for both mitigation and adaptation.

However, we currently consider water superficially and in silos without taking the holistic view required across our many different relationships with water.

We need to think about how we value and use water and what we can do differently to improve our relationship with water and the environment.

Recognising that water is both how we experience the impacts of climate change and the medium through which we can mitigate and build resilience to climate change, we have come together to issue a call to action on climate change.

As water experts, working in a variety of positions and with diverse backgrounds, we are uniquely positioned to make a difference as professionals and individuals in mitigating and adapting to climate change.

Therefore, we will work towards the following objectives:


We will challenge business as usual – recognising we will only reduce water sector operational and embodied greenhouse gas emissions sufficiently, through immediate, transformational change starting today.

Alternatives to reduce emissions in the water sector should take a life cycle assessment approach and collaborative decision making to maximise societal and climate benefits.

We commit to use less water ourselves and, through demonstration and support, help others reduce water demand and greenhouse gas emissions.


Change is required in water infrastructure finance – with affordable, just finance and new value frameworks required that adequately fund both mitigation and adaptation. We will advocate and implement this change, engaging with decision makers.

We recognise that significant finance will be required for safe, resilient water infrastructure for those who remain without access to safe water and sanitation in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.


We will promote the importance of adaptation in ensuring sustainable resilience to climate change by educating on what adaptation means.

We will take on adaptation work alongside mitigation work, helping organisations, individuals, and communities to take ownership of solutions.

We will showcase what good adaptation looks like in our communities and homes.

We emphasise the need for adaptation work that maximises use of nature-based solutions and existing infrastructure


We will work broadly across all disciplines and sectors fostering trust with communities and individuals to reach sustainable, effective solutions to climate change.

We come together, at this Water Climate Discussion to make this Call to Action today. We will remain accountable to our Call, keep it central to our decision making and commit to it in our daily roles.

We will come together each year prior to the Conference of Parties to reflect on developments and progress in the Water Climate space and to support each other.

Article by Adam Duckett

Editor, The Chemical Engineer

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