Toespraak van minister Harbers bij COP27

Toespraak van minister Harbers (IenW) op 14 november 2022  bij de COP27 in Egypte. De toespraak is alleen in het Engels beschikbaar.

Welcome to the Water Pavilion for the soft launch of the International Panel on deltas and coastal zones.

This is a special occasion. Today, the frontrunners meet for the first time.  
It’s good to see that we come from widely differing backgrounds – from the worlds of science, technology, finance and politics.

As the one who started this initiative, I’m very pleased to welcome you here today. This shows that delta countries and small island states not only feel the need to work together, but also see that there are opportunities to do so.

And this inspires us to forge stronger partnerships and to protect our peoples, now and in the future. That’s what it’s all about.

The urgency is undeniable.

  • The number of climate-related disasters has risen by 30 per cent in the past 10 years.
  • In 2020, 50 million people were hit by drought, floods and storms.  
  • 90 per cent of these natural disasters are related to water.
  • And in all scenarios, the risks to deltas and coastal zones are high to very high.  

The world’s deltas are low-lying and densely populated. They are currently home to around 800 million people. And this number is set to rise by 50 per cent by 2050.

Deltas are of huge economic value. Their location is strategically favourable. And with their fertile soil, they play an important role in food production and biodiversity. Major investments have been made in infrastructure.

Whether we’re talking about the Paraná Delta in Argentina, the Ganges delta in Bangladesh, or our own Dutch delta, climate change is putting extra pressure on all of them. And the same applies to Small Island Developing States. We need to adapt in ways that are affordable, integrated and flexible.

No country can do this on its own and they don’t have to. We can learn from each other, strengthen each other and share knowledge, solutions and funding with each other.

By their very nature, deltas encourage connection and exchange, not just of goods, but also ideas. So let’s do what we’re good at.

The Netherlands knows all about the issues at stake. 25 per cent of our country is located below sea level. 2/3 of our country is vulnerable to flooding – and this area is where we earn around 70 per cent of our GDP.  

And so we have our national Delta Programme – for flood protection, conservation of fresh water and for better spatial planning.
We’ve also drawn up a National Climate Adaptation Strategy to give all our major sectors – from farming to healthcare – guidance in adapting to climate change.

In each of these programmes, science and knowledge development at both national and international level play key roles. We have learned many lessons that we’d like to share.

The first is that a sound climate adaptation plan, with medium and long-term aims, is essential for an effective approach. That’s why the Panel – the IPDC – is explicitly committed to supporting the development of the National Adaptation Plans of the countries in the Champions Group.

The Netherlands wants to use its expertise and experience to bring about closer international cooperation. And that’s why we launched this initiative.

We’re also responding to the UN’s distress call, urging every country to commit to a sound climate adaptation strategy. And we’re responding to UN Secretary-General Guterres’ call to turbo-charge work on the Sustainable Development Goals.

We’re setting to work. Today we’re launching the first stage. The Netherlands has invested 2 million euros, and taken responsibility for running the secretariat. Our aim is for more countries to join us.

We plan to flesh out this partnership initiative along the following three lines:

  • First, more knowledge: that’s why we’re explicitly engaging with the scientific leads from all the countries involved.
  • Second, a customised, structural approach: this is why we’re also engaging with each country’s National Adaptation Plan coordinators.
  • Third, feasible plans: that’s why we’re engaging with powerful financial institutions like the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and the Green Climate Fund. And we want to connect with finance coalitions like the Coalition of Finance Ministers for Climate Action.

Our joint commitment is to officially launch the IPDC, with a work programme, at the UN Water Conference in New York in March next year.

What we want is decisiveness and fresh action. I look forward to working with you, to hearing your ideas and learning from your insights.

Thank you.

Speaking notes for the symbolic launch

The panel discussion was marked by a broad sense of urgency. There is a need for a sound, integrated strategy for deltas and coastal zones.

It’s also clear that the IPDC can be instrumental in moving this strategy forwards.

What we need is action! Today, rather than tomorrow. Based on facts and figures. That’s why we want today’s soft launch to amount to more than just words. We want to make this initiative both tangible and transparent.

So I’m happy to present you with two aids:
First, a short publication on strategies for deltas and coastal areas, with recommendations. It is a co-production of the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency and the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management.
It also sets out IPDC’s tasks. You will all be given a copy.
Second, today we will be launching the IPDC website. This is the platform for connecting communities, and publishing reports and the agendas of forthcoming meetings online. It will be a source of new knowledge.
The site’s name is:

Many thanks to everyone who has contributed!

I’m looking forward to developing the IPDC and to welcoming many more Champions. We’ll see each other again at the formal launch during the UN Water Conference in New York in March 2023.

Thank you.