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Wednesday, 26 May 2021
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Lila Thompson: Uniting water’s voices ahead of COP26

With five months until COP26, this is a unique opportunity for suppliers to be part of an expert collective striving to make a difference in water, writes Lila Thompson.

An open discussion to make a difference

With five months to go until the UK hosts the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, 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, enabling organisations of all sizes to join the conversation ahead of the summit, which takes place from 1-12 November 2021.

The series’ launch event took place on 13 May and shared the latest developments in water sector adaptation and resilience, looking at both West Africa and South East England for examples of these principles in action.

“This is a unique opportunity for suppliers to be part of an expert collective striving to make a difference in water.”

The input of the water supplier community is vital to the sector achieving its climate goals. I would urge companies to join the next discussion on 10 June. With a focus on nature-based solutions, the event will welcome speakers from the International Water Association, Water UK and Severn Trent, a utility based in central England.

This is a unique opportunity for suppliers to share insights, highlight innovations and be part of an expert collective striving to make a difference in water.

COP26 will be the biggest international summit the UK has hosted in decades and a shared voice for the water industry has never been more important.

Waking up to water, finally

The United Nations recognises that water is the primary medium through which we will feel the effects of climate change and there is an expectation for it to be given a prominent platform throughout the climate talks.

The world is finally waking up to water. President Biden’s American Jobs Plan, announced in March 2021, includes an unprecedented US$111 billion investment in water infrastructure.

Look to India for another example, where some US$200 billion of investment is planned for the water market, leading British Water to sign an MOU with cGanga – a think-tank set up by the Indian government’s Ministry of Drinking Water & Sanitation (Jal Shakti) – and the National Mission for Clean Ganga.

“The world is finally waking up to water.”

While the skills and expertise of the supply chain are underpinning the sector’s response to climate change both at home and internationally, they will also be key to proposed green investment projects announced by Ofwat on 17 May.

The regulator for England and Wales has set out plans to support £850 million of new, green investment projects, to be delivered alongside £1.9 billion of planned expenditure brought forward by 12 water companies in England. Ofwat will be consulting on the plans before making final decisions in mid-July.

Barriers do remain

With the proposed investment including low carbon treatment, nature-based solutions and innovative trials, the role of the supply chain should not be underestimated – these projects will not be possible without it.

While utilities are committing to closer collaboration with suppliers, and most are actively changing their approach, barriers do remain.

My hope is that at this critical moment for water, doors will open, so that suppliers with the ideas, technologies and solutions necessary to build a resilient water future for all have their voices heard.

- More information on the COP26 Water Climate Discussion Series can be found here.

Lila Thompson

Lila Thompson

Chief Executive
British Water

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