Good afternoon and thank you so much for having me here today. It’s truly a pleasure to be here at COP27 – to take part in these sessions and to learn from this community of experts.
As has been said, my name is Monica Medina, and I’m the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, as well as the U.S. Special Envoy for Biodiversity and Water Resources.
It is increasingly clear that we are up against intertwined crises facing our planet – including climate, biodiversity, and water insecurity.
U.S. Approaches on Water Security
That’s why the U.S. governmentUSG has been actively reorienting its approach to global water security to be much more interdisciplinary.
On June 1st, Vice President Kamala Harris launched the “White House Action Plan for Global Water Security,” prioritizing water security as a U.S. foreign policy priority for the first time. And on October 1st, the U.S. governmentUSG released the second, updated, iteration of the “Global Water Strategy.”
The U.S. approach to “water security” is expansive. It encompasses our ability to sustain access to, and maintain the quality of, water resources for our whole population.
I will be leveraging my role as the new Special Envoy for Biodiversity and Water Resources to maintain high-level focus on these issues as the U.S. continues to focus on mitigating water-related disasters, preserving functioning ecosystems, conservation of biodiversity, and supporting an overall goal of peace and stability.
Water and Biodiversity
Water security and biodiversity are mutually enforcing concepts. The water sector impacts biodiversity and increased biodiversity can support ecosystems, bolstering water security.
In both the White House Action Plan for Global Water Security and the Global Water Strategy, nature-based solutions are recognized as an indispensable approach toward achieving water security.
Improving water resources management is one of the most cost-effective ways to adapt to climate change, and nature-based solutions have significant potential for carbon sequestration, as well as ecosystem restoration.
Nature-based solutions are a central priority of the Biden Administration – a recognition of their unique utility in addressing the climate, biodiversity, and pollution crises while supporting human health and well-being.
In the U.S., we are working hard to implement President Biden’s directive to conserve at least 30 percent of our land and waters by 2030.
This means a wholesale change in how we think about our land, our waters, and all critical ecosystems – we cannot continue to view ourselves as separate from Nature.
Water and Natural Capital Accounts
Another important element to spur the use of nature-based solutions is addressing the question of how much water is worth?
Our natural resources are in fact the backbone of our economies – without them we wouldn’t survive.
Therefore, the United States is encouraging governments to put their natural resources on their balance sheets, the same way we do other economic activities.
Examples of U.S. Action
We know that these growing stressors are being felt most in regions that are already facing conflict and fragility and that sustainable management is essential to improving water security and conserving biodiversity.
The U.S. is working with that in mind in programs like the Mekong Water Data Initiative. This flagship program of the Mekong-U.S. Partnership between the U.S. and partners across the Mekong sub-region works to:
a) strengthen and build the capacity of Mekong countries to manage water data,
b) improve regional responses to environmental emergencies, and
c) promote sustainable economic development.
The Mekong Water Data Initiative supports data sharing initiatives like the Mekong Dam Monitor, which is bringing transparency to Mekong dam operations and giving downstream countries crucial information to address both local and regional water challenges, including impacts on biodiversity.
In my capacity as the Special Envoy, I am looking forward to working collaboratively with the international community towards a better future.
In many instances, we know exactly what needs to be done to confront both the challenge of biodiversity loss and water insecurity.
We have the tools and the innovations – we just need the political commitment.
The commitment to safeguard our planet for ourselves now and for future generations, and we must simultaneously address the interconnected crises of climate change, biodiversity loss, and water stress by working together, and by working in harmony with nature.