International UN-Water Conference. Water in the Green Economy in Practice: Towards Rio+20. 3-5 October 2011


The themes of the conference are in line with the 'tools for change' identified by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to support the change towards a greener economy. These are the following:

  • Economic incentives
    This refers to introducing market-based instruments such as payment of ecosystem services (financed by the user of services or by governments/donors); consumer driven accreditation and certification schemes, arrangements to send scarcity signals (including trading of water and emission permits, and offset schemes); reducing input subsidies including electricity; ensuring that incentives/subsidies do not conflict with or damage other sectors; introducing financial incentives for saving water; promoting the use of Best Available Technology in industry; reviewing water allocation mechanisms at the national and regional levels to ensure that water allocated to productive uses maximizes the contribution to economic growth; providing effective price signals, and moral and financial motivation for changes in infrastructure and technology standards, social habits and attitudes, and standard business practices.
  • Green jobs
    The institutional reforms proposed by UNEP include basic improvements in governance. In the green economy scenario there are a number of governance and policy reforms necessary, as well as new investments. All of these affect the types of jobs generated, as well the quantity and quality of jobs. There is an overall need to improve skills and training, including through closer coordination between the public sector and industrial partners to identify education and training needs. Labour market and training policies can play a key role in facilitating the structural adjustments associated with the green economy while minimizing the associated social costs.
  • Water cost recovery and financing
    This relates to improving water charging and finance arrangements. This needs to include improving access to financing for the poor. Cross subsidizing of water use may be considered to facilitate access to water services for the poor. Establishing financing that creates incentives that we need for eco-efficient technologies would support technology development, adaptation and adoption. Financing is important for some key investments aimed at improving the effectiveness, efficiency and resilience of water supply and of water use. This includes financing for obtaining more value and crop per drop and replacing water-intensive crops; investing in replacing/maintaining old infrastructure, improving irrigation systems, and decreasing wastage; investing in sustainable agriculture and freshwater systems. For developing countries, in particular, finance may be needed to increase agricultural investment in infrastructure for value addition and to reduce water transmission losses in irrigation canals and traditional water systems. Both in developing and developed countries, finance is needed to improve storage and water quality, and for investing in hard infrastructure (i.e. dams) to protect current assets at risk, when economically efficient to do so, and devise retrenchment strategies for other cases. Infrastructure must take into account the impacts on water quantity and water quality, biodiversity, energy and resource efficiency. Finance is also essential for water resources management, in particular for investing in the institutions and mechanisms needed to allocate water among competing demands in an equitable and sustainable manner.
  • Investments in protection and improvement of biodiversity
    Investments in protection and improvement of biodiversity such as upper basin management protection and wetland/forest restoration, when it is cost-effective for achieving water policy targets. Governments of developed and developing countries and economies in transition are encouraged to consider ecological infrastructure as one of the top priorities for public spending both in their immediate responses to the current global financial crisis and in their regular national budget. Investing in ecological infrastructure is important for all countries. Developing economies in particular are home to hundreds of millions of poor people whose livelihoods depend on critical ecosystem services.
  • Promotion of water technologies
    Green technologies have the potential to create new business opportunities and markets, contributing to job creation. This includes cooling methods for energy plants, desalination with wind energy, and changes to drip irrigation. Innovation is a key driver of productivity. Innovation relates to both technological and non-technological innovation such as integrated environmental strategies, responsible management practice and new business models (such as eco-efficiency).