Okonjo-Iweala says trade solution to manage water economics
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the director-general of the World Trade Organisation, says trade is part of solution to managing the economics of water to incentivise its appropriate use that ensure access and equity.
Ms Okonjo-Iweala said this at a news conference organised by the Global Commission on the Economics of Water (GCEW) on the sidelines of the ongoing 2023 UN Water Conference on Wednesday in New York.
GCEW, was established in May 2022 at the initiative of the government of the Netherlands as co-host of the conference.
Ms Okonjo-Iweala, co-chair of the commission, said stakeholders should pay special attention to agriculture as they looked at the new economics of water.
She was speaking on the report ‘Turning the Tide: A call to collective Action’ published by GCEW on Wednesday, aimed at alerting the world to a glowing global water crisis and lays out actions that can and must be taken urgently.
“This is the sector that uses 70 to 80 per cent of global water; over 700 billion subsides in agriculture and water is often fuel excessive water consumption. We think trade can be part of the answer of enabling to grow in this area where there is water and leave scarce water region to focus on those crops that are more appropriate because you can trade between the two,” said Ms Okonjo-Iweala.
The WTO boss added, “Most people don’t know that one in five calories consumed is trade. We see trade as part of the solution to managing this economics of water.”
According to her, the world needs to develop a new economics of water that will help us reduce water waste, improve water efficiency and provide opportunities for greater water equity.
“Water cannot be put back on as sustainable trajectory without justice and equity in every corner of the globe,” she said.
Ms Okonjo-Iweala said the impact of climate change had further deepened water crisis.
“This is interconnected. It is right we seriously consider to develop a global policy framework that foster new management and governance practices, this new economics of water that ensures water access for all,” stated the WTO director-general. “Now the new economics of water needs to promote more efficiency of water and encourage investment in water infrastructure.”
Speaking in the same vein, Mariana Mazzucalo, professor in the Economics of Innovation and Public Value at University College London and co-chair of the Commission, said the world needed new economics to address water scarcity.
“We need new economic thinking to help move from reactively fixing to proactively shaping economies to become inclusive and sustainable,” said Ms Mazzucalo.
She added, “Moving from sectoral to mission-oriented innovation polices with a common good approach can help us put equity and justice at the centre of water partnerships and bring multiple sectors together to tackle our biggest water challenges.”
Also speaking, Johan Rockstrom, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and co-chair of the commission said water crisis was entangled with global warming and the loss of biodiversity with each reinforcing the other.
“For the first time in human history, we can no longer count on the source of all freshwater, our precipitation. We are changing the entire global hydrological cycle,” he said.
The UN Water Conference, which opened on Wednesday, is taking place as this vital natural resource is being depleted, polluted and mismanaged.
The three-day event, co-hosted by the Netherlands and Tajikistan, falls at the halfway point for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which include the promise of ensuring all people have access to safe water and sanitation by 2030.