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Water: Can We Afford to Do Nothing?

Water: Can We Afford to Do Nothing? – European Economic and Social Committee Presents the #EUBlueDeal Action Plan

26/10/2023

Reference number: 42/2022

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On 26 October, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) unveiled its plan for a comprehensive EU water strategy. The EESC is leading the way as the first European institution to take concrete steps to address the water crisis. Its proposals include: water consumption labels, a Blue Transition Fund, water conditionality in EU fund, and a dedicated EU Commissioner for water.

The cost of inaction on water is staggering. The Global Water Report 2020 estimates that it could be up to five times the cost of action. This means that businesses that don't take steps to address water challenges today are putting themselves at a significant financial disadvantage.

Europe has a unique opportunity to transform water-related challenges into new opportunities for technological development, societal progress and business growth. However, the current European approach to water is deeply flawed. Our instruments for water are too fragmented to meet the challenges of water scarcity, pollution, and climate change head-on.

The European Union must take a bold and integrated approach to confronting the water crisis through a comprehensive strategy that includes a single access point for funding and enhanced water knowledge.

EESC President Oliver Röpke presented a political declaration with a set of 15 guiding principles and 21 concrete actions to make the Blue Deal a reality. Water is THE priority, Röpke said, We need to learn from the mistakes that have been made with climate, energy and critical raw materials, and adopt a standalone water strategy that's on an equal footing with the EU Green Deal.

The declaration proposes a set of ambitious and comprehensive measures to address the water crisis, including water consumption label for products, a Blue Transition Fund as a single access point for water investments, and water conditionality in EU funds in order to avoid supporting projects that run counter to the EU water objectives. It also calls for a dedicated European Commissioner in charge of addressing the water portfolio.

Member of the European Parliament and Chair of the MEP Water Group, Pernille Weiss, joined the call to action: True water resilience MUST become our priority in the EU. The European Parliaments fully supports the creation of a Blue Deal – it is exactly what we need: a holistic, structured, evidence-based approach to our precious water resources. There is no Green (Deal) without Blue!

Virginijus Sinkevičius, European Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, also applauded the EESC's water initiative: Thank you to the Committee for putting freshwater management and clean water for all where they belong – in the European spotlight.

Ahead of the European Commission's Water Resilience initiative, announced in Ursula von der Leyen's letter of intent for 2024 and due in the first quarter of the year, the EESC will step up pressure on the EU institutions and Member States for an integrated water strategy. It will also work on additional opinions examining specific aspects of the Blue Deal.

The Committee believes that the European Union must take a leading role on this matter on an international level, and work with other countries to address the global water crisis. As part of this effort, an EESC delegation will participate in COP28 in December to advocate for international action on water-related issues.

Prof Mariana Mazzucato, Co-Chair of the Global Commission on the Economics of Water, warned that If we continue to ignore the world’s water crisis, we will not tackle climate change, nor will we make any meaningful progress on the Sustainable Development Goals. We call on governments around the world to value, finance and govern water as a global common good.

Pedro Arrojo-Agudo, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to water and sanitation, insisted that Water is not a commodity, it's a common good. Technology alone won't solve our water challenges. We need a democratic water governance based on sustainability and human rights.

Pietro Francesco De Lotto, President of the EESC Consultative Commission on Industrial Change (CCMI), said: We are convinced and determined, and we urge the other institutions for a real, comprehensive policy for water. Water has to be included in all European policies.

The EESC Opinion "A call for an EU Blue Deal", summarising the 2023 EU Blue Deal recommendations, was adopted at the October plenary session.

Read EESC President Oliver Röpke's Declaration for an EU Blue Deal.

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