Lila Thompson, chief executive, British Water Countdown to COP, Opinion, Innovate water, Wastewater treatment, Water quality

British Water’s chief executive talks about the collective action needed for water to have a seat at the table for the UN’s climate conference in Glasgow.

It is less than six months until the UK hosts the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow and the water sector is uniting through a collaborative discussion series to ensure its voice is heard.

The cross-sector COP26 Water Climate Discussion Series, which British Water is proud to support, is free to attend, providing valuable opportunities for organisations of all sizes to join the conversation ahead of the global summit, which takes place from 1-12 November 2021.

The series’ launch event took place on 13 May. Chaired by Martin Currie, Aqueum, it heard from Lucien Damiba, WaterAid, and Trevor Phillips, Water Resources South East, who shared the latest developments in water sector adaptation & resilience, looking at both West Africa and the South East of England for examples of these principles in action.

Benefits and challenges of solutions such as aquifer recharge, desalination and water reuse were among discussion points, with questions posed including, how can the sector make water reuse acceptable to customers and how can water be promoted as a key COP26 challenge? Responses from each of the five sessions will be compiled into a report that will shape continued joint action in the run up to COP26.

I would urge the water and wastewater supplier community to join the next discussion on 10 June, which will focus on nature-based solutions. As the lead representative for the UK water supply chain, British Water is in no doubt that its input is vital to the sector achieving its climate goals.

We are at a critical moment for water. The UN recognises that water is the primary medium through which we will feel the effects of climate change and there is an expectation for water to be given a prominent platform at COP26. As such, a collective voice for the industry, including the supply chain, has never been more important.

The UK industry has already shown tremendous leadership in its drive to reduce emissions, with its Net Zero 2030 Routemap being the world’s first plan to get an entire sector to net zero by the end of the decade. Water UK was in January 2021 confirmed as one of the first industry trade bodies to join the UN’s Race to Zero campaign ahead of COP26.

Underpinning the sector’s response to climate change are the skills and expertise of the supply chain. The platform provided by the COP26 Water Climate Discussion Series is a unique opportunity for companies to share insights, highlight innovations and be part of an expert collective striving to make a difference in water.

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