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2008: European Policy Summit

Short report on the European Policy Summit on Water – Brussels, 5th November

On the 5th of November the European Policy Summit on Water took place in the beautiful surroundings of the Bibliothèque Solvay in Brussels. Organized by the European Water Partnership and Friends of Europe, the Summit was opened by a welcome speech by Mr. Ger Bergkamp, Director General of the World Water Council, who highlighted the connection between the Summit and the 5th World Water Forum.

Summit 2008

L/R: Ger Bergkamp, Friedrich Barth, Peter Gammeltoft

Mr. Bergkamp stressed the importance for Europe to act globally and have a key role in positioning water in the political agenda: “The EU has something to teach to the rest of the world: how water can become part of the good life, the good life that EU citizens wish to enjoy but also other citizens around the world wish to enjoy. In that sense we can see that water is increasingly becoming an emblem of the fabric that would define the future of Europe in terms of cultural identity”.

The discussion during the day brought up many important reflections on climate change, water management and financing as well as on water scarcity and droughts, and generated some important messages:

  • Europe should to take a similar leading role on Climate Change Adaptation as it did on Mitigation. It has to set up a stronger and more focused cooperation on this subject, showing leadership to the world and also involving the private sector.
  • The financial sector is of extreme importance to solve the water challenges, but is not brought into the debate as much as it should be. The financial challenges we face in the water sector now are not new, and have been solved in other sectors before.
  • Measures to address the water scarcity and droughts challenges should not only lead to more availability, but to financial savings for industry and consumers as well.

Minister Liu Bin Liu, from the Ministry of water resource in China, calls upon the European Union for leadership on the issue of adaptation to climate change. ‘This is a challenge we must meet’, says Tom Vereijken, chairman of the European Water Partnership (EWP). The willingness to provide concrete measures and practical insights was very present throughout the conference. Peter Gammeltoft, head of the unit “Protection of Water and Marine Environment” at the European Commission, stated that by using relatively simple techniques it would be possible to reach a 40% reduction of carbon emissions instead of the current European ambition to reduce 20%. Speakers repeatedly stressed the fundamental role that policy-makers have to play to make the shift happens. European policies should take into account regional differences and implement tailor made solutions, aiming to increase the cooperation between national, regional and local levels with a careful evaluation of short and long term strategies. Also the importance for countries to share knowledge was underlined, and the results of the Dutch Delta commission were presented by Renske Peters, from the Dutch Ministry, as an example of best practices to be widely shared.

Talking about vulnerabilities and challenges in Europe, Mr. Gammeltoft summarizes in one sentence a crucial point: “if we all play the game we win, if one doesn’t play everybody loses”. This concept is underlined as well by Mr. Moroz from WWF when he says that there is no one single solution to cope with the current and future challenges related to water and that “a joint approach and cooperation among all sectors are the best tool to achieve results”.

The Summit saw a very active participation from the audience who participated to the debate with many comments and questions. Also the European Commissioner for the Environment Stavros Dimas showed his sincere interest in the discussion and after a keynote speech addressing the challenges on Europe’s water scarcity and droughts he joined the discussion answering questions from the audience.

A full report of the Summit is available for download here.

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