WISE-UP to Climate, a new project recently launched by the IUCN Global Water Programme, will demonstrate natural infrastructure as a 'nature-based solution' for climate change adaptation and sustainable development.
The project's name stands for 'Water Infrastructure Solutions from Ecosystem Services Underpinning Climate Resilient Policies and Programmes'.
WISE-UP will run over a four -year period and link ecosystem services more directly into water infrastructure development, starting with work in the Tana (Kenya) and Volta (Ghana-Burkina Faso) river basins. The project will be coordinated by a global partnership that brings together the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in Ghana (CSIR), the University of Nairobi, the University of Manchester, the Basque Centre for Climate Change (BC3), and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
"The WISE-UP project will treat river basins as natural infrastructure, based on the ecosystem services they provide. In this way, river basin infrastructure planning and finance investments will include alternate portfolios of both built and natural infrastructure", said Mark Smith, Director of the IUCN Global Water Programme.
WISE-UP will develop the knowledge on built and natural infrastructure portfolios and demonstrate its optimized outcomes for poverty reduction, water-energy-food security, biodiversity conservation, and climate resilience.
For example, in the Tana river, Kenya's longest river, intensifying competition amongst water users is projected to intensify with the development of new hydropower plants, climate variability, as well as increasing urban, agricultural, and ecosystem demands. The Tana river is also the only river providing water to the lower delta inhabited by a poor and vulnerable population. River sediments and nutrients support the health of beaches and marine parks, critical contributors to the national economy.
Professor Eric Odada from the University of Nairobi and a Member of UNSGAB said that "in the Tana river basin, long-term climate resilient and sustainable solutions satisfying all water users and water developers will need to be implemented in order to avert conflict, livelihood losses, ecosystem degradation and economic hardship". A critical challenge is to adapt water management to climate change impacts while finding ways of equitably and efficiently balancing competing water demands.
An innovative element of the project is its foresight in linking water services from nature's infrastructure to investment, where investors and banking sectors can benefit from long-term sustainable returns from combined portfolios of built and natural infrastructure. WISE-UP will support a closer collaboration between experts working on infrastructure solutions and those active in development financing.
The implementing partnership consists of organisations with a wide variety of expertise. "This provides a really unique dimension to the project. We have natural resource scientists, engineers, computer modellers, economists, governance and political economists, water managers and climate change specialists all involved in the project. We hope to really challenge some of the misconceptions about ecosystems and their role in adaptation", said Matthew McCartney from IWMI. Linking and sharing analyses and tools from political, economic, social and technical research will better inform decision-making and financial outcomes for infrastructure development planning.
The project is funded by the International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) and is projected to run for a 4-year period.