Experts discuss water security and climate change at the WSCC2022

The annual Water Security and Climate Change Conference (WSCC 2022) was organized from December 1 – 3 in Bangkok in a hybrid mode. The event was inaugurated by H.E. Mr. Varawut Silpa-archa, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, The Government of Thailand. H.E. Mr. George Schmidt, Ambassador of Germany to Thailand; H.E. Mr. Yuichi Oba, Deputy Chief of Mission and Minister (Economic Affairs), Embassy of Japan in Thailand; H.E. Dr. Suwit Khunkitti, Vice Chairperson, AIT Board of Trustees and Prof. Mukund Babel, Chair of the Scientific and Organizing Committee of WSCC2022 gave their remarks during the opening session. 

The overarching objective of the WSCC conferences is to proliferate the exchange of knowledge and practical know-how on the intrinsic relationship between water security and climate change, to advance fundamental and action research in this domain that will help humankind address one of the most significant challenges of our times. The conference sought to go beyond science and build bridges between state-of-the-art advancements in multiple disciplines and different groups of stakeholders and practitioners. 

The themes of the WSCC2022 Conference were:

  • Transitioning from sectoral to nexus thinking,
  • Robustifying climate change adaptation strategies,
  • Translating knowledge into action

The Conference featured keynote sessions, technical sessions, partner sessions, special sessions, and side events as well as a high-level panel discussion. Scientists, policymakers, and stakeholders from various sectors discussed the diverse facets of water security and its inter-relationship with climate variability and climate change. 

Giving his welcome remarks, Vice-Chair of the AIT Board of Trustees, Dr. Suwit Khunkitti expressed confidence that the Conference will trigger insightful scientific discussions on diverse aspects of water and climate. “I am certain that the deliberations during this Conference will facilitate excellent cross-learning, which will help respond to climate change in our respective regions. In addition to the proceedings, I urge the organizers to produce a policy brief highlighting the action points which will be useful to decision-makers”. 

Prof. Mukand Babel, Chair of the Scientific and Organizing Committees of WSCC2022, provided a brief overview of the conference. He highlighted the philosophy behind the WSCC conference and how it aimed to bring the water and climate communities together, as water is the first sector affected by climate. “Linking it to COP26 and COP27, we have decided to focus on adaptation for sustainable and resilient development,” he said. 

Expressing delight that AIT received the opportunity to host the Conference for the second time,  he added, “The event witnessed an overwhelming participation of experts from 34 countries representing all six continents and almost 50 organizations. Through various presentations and panel sessions, a total of 150 research papers and development projects will be presented in the three days showcasing 75 years of work.”  

Deputy Chief of Mission and Minister (Economic Affairs) at the Embassy of Japan in Thailand, H.E. Mr. Yuichi Oba, recalled how the world witnessed extreme weather events and natural hazards that many scientists have linked with climate change. He assured that Japan would continue to share its expertise and knowledge with other countries in the Asia Pacific region, especially from the perspectives of finance and governance, including capacity related to policies, human resources and science, and technology.

Ambassador of Germany to Thailand, H.E. Mr. George Schmidt, pointed out that climate change has been a global headline recently and expressed delight that experts from different countries and sectors have gathered to discuss the issue during the Conference. He said, “To achieve our desired goal, the involvement of the private sector is essential. Such events are important as we need diverse perspectives on issues and concerns that we face and must move forward in a multilateral approach. Strong understanding will be a better argument for the policymakers to bring necessary changes.” 

He further appreciated AIT’s work and contribution to the sector, in raising the issue and developing the necessary expertise. 

Giving his keynote speech, H.E. Mr. Varawut Silpa-Archa, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, the Government of Thailand, highlighted that climate change is progressing rapidly, and its speed has provoked global concern. “Adaptation has now become an obligation, not a choice”. To ensure water security in the face of the climate crisis, adequate investment, appropriate technologies, knowledge development, and transfer, as well as capacity building in adaptation will be required. “Thailand has witnessed several natural disasters due to climate change, such as increasing temperature, floods, drought, and storms, among others. This jeopardizes major economic sectors such as agriculture, tourism, and industries. It is evident that Thailand has particularly been exposed to a dramatic oscillation between floods and drought, which has aggravated our situation,” he added. 

He stressed that the Royal Thai government is aware of the risk of climate change which is a threat not only to the Thai people but the entire mankind and the ecosystem. “The global community is fighting against this catastrophe, along with the commitment to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment has collaborated with the Office of the National Water Resources to improve its effort to integrate climate change adaptation into the country’s water management strategies, particularly at the watershed level. We work closely with all our partners and relevant stakeholders, including other ministries, local authorities, academia, NGOs, media, and civil societies to ensure that the country will have better resilience to climate change,” he added.  

The Minister further encouraged everyone attending the WSCC representing different sectors to work closely with civil society to develop holistic solutions that will massively scale up climate action. “WSCC is not just a conference but a homecoming day where we deserve to celebrate our progress and achievements in resolution. Still, there are challenges we need to tackle. I am confident that together we will eventually contribute to ensuring that water is secured for everyone during the climate battle. We must act together- TOGETHER, it’s possible”.

During the event’s opening ceremony, two new initiatives undertaken by AIT in collaboration with different partners, namely the Centre for Water and Climate Adaptation (CWCA) and Water Security Assessment Tool (WATSAT) for cities, were launched. Prof. Kazuo Yamamoto, AIT President, provided a brief overview of CWCA. Ms. Neeta Pokhrel, Chief of the Water Sector Group at the Asian Development Bank, talked about WATSAT and provided her reflections on ADB’s work on water sector and pledged to work with AIT and other scientific community and partners to bring science and technology closer to our water entities on the ground to mainstream resilience in Asia Pacific. 

Partners: ADB, ADPC, AGWA, APN, CEEW, DAAD, GiZ, GWSC-AIT, IITG, IWA, IWHR, IWRA, Panya Consultants, Monash University, UN-ESCAP, UN-IHE Delft, SEI, SIWI, TUB, University of Tokyo, UNU, Water Future of Future Earth, Water Sensitive Cities Australia, AP-PLAT, AWP, BMGF, Deltares, DFAT, DGR, FAO (RAP), GiZ, ICIWaRM, IGES, IHE Delft (DUPC), IITR, Khon Kaen University NIUA, NUOL, RID, UNESCO-IHP, University of Southampton, University of Geneva