World leaders must prioritise focus on rivers at COP27

World leaders must make the impacts of the Climate Emergency on water and rivers central to the COP27 agenda, environmental charity Thames21 urged.

Droughts in Europe, catastrophic floods in Nigeria and Pakistan, and droughts and increased flood risk in England have shown that the world needs to be better prepared to make rivers more resilient to cope with Climate Emergency-related extreme weather events.

Ahead of the COP27 climate conference, which starts this Sunday in Egypt, Thames21 highlighted that water did not feature prominently in last year’s COP26 conference despite it being a critical issue. The charity is calling on world heavyweights to take the issue of promoting climate-ready rivers more seriously. The charity has also urged world leaders to speed up investment in renewables.

Debbie Leach, CEO at Thames21, said: “This is not a side subject. Rivers are crucial in our response to the Climate and Nature Emergency and are vital tools if we are to tackle more extreme, accelerated and intense periods of drought and flood and manage their impact on people and wildlife.

“The impact of the Climate Emergency on rivers is not a Cinderella issue. Rivers are precious sources of fresh drinking water for people across the world. However, rivers are facing challenges from sewage pollution, plastic pollution and road run off. We need everybody to commit to these issues now and properly. These issues will only worsen with climate change, so it is in everyone’s interests to protect the essential river functions that we all depend upon.”

Thames21 has recently released its Five Year Plan which highlights the charity’s plans to develop nature-based solutions, such as creating wetlands, planting trees, and supporting sustainable drainage systems to help improve biodiversity, to make rivers and communities more climate resilient.

Wetlands can help to keep rivers flowing, even when rain is scarce, thereby protecting the living, shimmering threads that bring life to the landscape. Water standing on the land in the right place also helps recharge the aquifers that underpin much of our public water supply.

Thames2, which is committed to transforming the River Thames and its tributaries, is currently working with partners to develop and implement a freshwater habitat creation and floodplain restoration scheme along the River Rom in East London. Wetland habitats will be restored to improve wildlife, biodiversity and help store flood water.

“Governments, businesses, and charities across the world need to work together to deliver effective action for our rivers. We have a duty to work together to protect our rivers from any further destruction. The best way to tackle this is to share what everyone knows, work cooperatively and find solutions,” Leach added.


About Thames21
Thames21 connects people with rivers by putting healthy rivers back at the heart of everyday life. We improve and restore rivers, educate and empower the community and campaign for positive change for the good of people and the environment. | Registered Charity No. 1103997

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