I believe the world is facing two crises: one financial, one environmental. I also think the only way to solve them is to tackle both at the same time. Otherwise we face a future of dwindling natural resources, escalating prices and diminishing alternatives. As a vital natural resource, water is essential for our future, which is why international efforts to use it more efficiently are crucial both for the environment and the global economy.
Agreeing concrete goals to increase water efficiency is one of the important tasks for this year’s Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development. At the original Rio summit in 1992, the right to clean water was incorporated into the famous Agenda 21 agreement. Twenty years later, increasing access to safe drinking water and sanitation is still a global priority. This time around we also face complex new challenges, including environmental problems, climate change and sound water management. It is absolutely crucial that Rio+20 delivers more sustainable development, but we must also make sure that the goals we choose to adopt will contribute to economic growth as well.
The Danish Presidency will work hard to establish an ambitious and solid EU position at Rio+20, in line with our commitment to protect the water environment and to use water resources efficiently. But it is also very important for the EU to focus on how to make access to clean water a top priority in its own policy on resources, following the recent report from the European Environment Agency, which points out clearly that the EU has not yet achieved its water policy goals.
Ida Auken is Denmark’s Minister of the Environment.