SINGAPORE: Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for Social Policies Tharman Shanmugaratnam will co-chair a global commission aimed at redefining the way water is valued and managed.
The new Global Commission on the Economics of Water was launched at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Wednesday (May 25). It is co-chaired by Mr Tharman, World Trade Organization director-general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, economist Mariana Mazzucato and scientist Johan Rockstrom.
The commission comprises 17 experts, community leaders and practitioners from a broad range of science, policy and front-line practice expertise from all regions of the globe. It will publish a review titled The Economics of Water: An Agenda for the Common Good, it said in a press release.
The commission’s review will “provide a fundamental reassessment of the way we manage and value water, and its intrinsic role in addressing climate change and other global challenges”, it said.
The commission said that it will design solutions that go beyond simply fixing market failures.
“What is needed are purpose-driven private-public partnerships on a scale that has never been attempted before, to mobilise finance, invest in innovations and deliver access everywhere to affordable, safe water,” said Mr Tharman.
Water is the first casualty of the climate crisis, said the commission, with extreme floods, droughts and water stress affecting billions of people.
“In the absence of urgent and effective responses, they will get worse as a result of climate change, over-extraction of water, pollution and water injustice,” said the commission.
“Improving how water is managed globally is critical to mitigating the climate crisis and averting growing social and economic disorder, mass migration and conflicts. Yet, water is almost totally absent from the global policy stage.”
Dr Okonjo-Iweala said that the consequences of neglect and poor governance of water resources “will most impact poor people all over the world who will suffer from inequity of access and ensuing water related conflicts”. This is already happening in many countries, she noted.
Rainfall variability is growing, extreme water events are becoming more intense and more frequent, said the commission.
“Combined with fast-growing pressure on water supplies, this has made existing policies and governance of water obsolete.”
The rapidly changing global hydrological cycle “is threatening human well-being, the global economy and the resilience of societies in the face of rising shocks”, said Dr Rockstrom.
Dr Mazzucato added that the dysfunctions in markets today are not an accident, but the result of decisions taken in business and governments.
“If every person on the planet is to have access to enough safe water at an affordable cost, we must govern our economy in a radically different way,” said Dr Mazzucato.
The commission is convened by the government of the Netherlands and facilitated by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Their first review will complete a sustainability trilogy that includes the Stern Review on the economics of climate change and the Dasgupta Review on the economics of biodiversity.
The commission’s first report will coincide with the United Nations’ 2023 Water Conference and inform the launch of a pact for voluntary commitments.