Water crises and climate-change top 2015 global risks

WINDHOEK: A water crises, failure to adapt to climate-change, as well as biodiversity loss are amongst the top 10 global risks, the 2015 Global Risks Report states.

Issued by the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Tuesday, the report warned that stakeholders have been slow to address the underlying causes of environmental risks or confront their economic, social, political and humanitarian consequences.

Even though all of these risks are well known, governments and businesses often remain woefully underprepared, and relatively little progress has been made on these risks in the last decade, read the report.

“Increasingly, decision-makers are realising that biodiversity loss is not a second-order issue but is intricately linked to economic development, food challenges and water security. Decision-makers will be forced to make tough choices about allocations of water that will impact users across the economy,” it stated.

The report said that the situation will worsen further if more man-made environmental catastrophes causing shocks to the system happen. It made specific reference to the Fukushima power plant disaster in Japan in 2011, which threatens to contaminate both freshwater and seawater, as well as the British Petroleum (BP) deep-water horizon oil spill in 2010, which contaminated large sections of coast along the Gulf of Mexico.

Global water requirements are projected to be pushed beyond sustainable water supplies by 40 per cent by the year 2030, while agriculture already accounts for on average 70 per cent of total water consumption, said the report.

The WEF cited World Bank estimates that 75 per cent of the world’s poor, or 870 million people, make a living from ecosystems, including tourism and the goods they produce, while 350 million people are affected by the loss of coral reefs.

It suggested that the international community has a once-in-a-generation opportunity in 2015 to align the climate-change and development agenda. A series of global summits on climate change, disaster risk reduction, financing for development and sustainable development goals could embed into the post-2015 global governance architecture a coherent agenda for tackling interlocking environmental risks.

“A strong set of clear policy signals to the wider business community is needed from the world’s governments on their ambition to tackle environmental risks. The year 2015 is not an opportunity the world can afford to miss,” it added.