Water and Green Growth: Examining the Links at World Water Week

26 August 2011 | News story

Water is integral to economic development. Likewise, ecosystem services -and the value they deliver to the economy- depend on water. But, what options for water are ‘green’?

Mark Smith, Director of the IUCN Global Water Programme, chaired the ‘Water and Green Growth’ seminar at World Water Week. He outlined how management of water resources will be central to the emerging concepts of the ‘green economy’ and ‘green growth’, including the water-food-energy nexus.

What new opportunities for public and private sector investment will emerge through valuing ecosystem services? How will understanding of economic returns from investing in ecosystems as ‘natural infrastructure’ change investment priorities?

These questions were discussed at the highly attended seminar ‘Water and Green Growth: Examining the Links’, organized by IUCN, The Nature Conservancy, the World Water Council, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), and the government of Korea.

The seminar brought together representatives from public and private sectors, with the objective of clarifying the opportunities for water from green growth strategies. Following on, an interactive panel discussed concepts and experiences where participants contributed to roundtable dialogues. The roundtables aligned potential solutions to the 5 Targets under the priority for action “Promote Green Growth and Value Ecosystem Services” for the upcoming 6th World Water Forum.

Xavier Leflavie from the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) explained how green growth is about economic and social development, while ensuring that natural assets continue to provide ecosystem services. A key message was that there is no single one response to how to tackle this issue. A combination of approaches is needed, according to Leflavie. If we invest in water infrastructure, this will stimulate growth.

Marianne Kettunen from the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) presented the work of the TEEB study, the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity, and looked at how the economy feeds back to nature.

Case studies were presented by Dr Ick Hwan Ko (Korea Water Corporation), Karin Krchnak (TNC) and Dr Cha (Korea Water Corporation) of projects and case studies dealing with the theme of green growth and water.

Gerard Bos from Holcim pointed out that all are in the same boat and that we should all move together to a common goal, even though speaking from different sectors.

The panel discussion was followed by roundtable discussions, each focusing on one of the five targets under the priority topic of green growth for the 6th World Water Forum (6WWF). These include policies, technology, sustainable financing, ecosystems valuation and green accounting. The goal of this roundtable session was to encourage participants to come up with possible solutions to the targets and consider further involvement in the work leading up to 6WWF and beyond.

Ed Pinero from Veolia North America summarized the session and reminded the audience to take these messages forward: Water is central to Green Growth, Ecosystems are a way to stress the ‘green’ in growth, Take mixture of approaches (multi-stakeholder), Recognize the nexus with other topics, Do not duplicate work (link with other sectors / stakeholders on the topic) and the importance of information and data to bring the work forward.

For more information, please contact Rebecca.welling@iucn.org