The European Investment Bank (EIB) is naturally strongly represented at the Sixth World Water Forum: as the European Union’s financial institution, the EIB is one of the leading sources of loan finance in this sector, for the 27 EU Members States as well as for around 100 non-member countries linked to the EU by development cooperation agreements.
Over the last five years, the EIB has invested more than EUR 16 billion in 141 projects for access to drinking water, wastewater collection and treatment, rational water management (particularly in urban areas and for adaptation to climate change, for which over EUR 1 billion has been provided), decontamination of resources, exploitation of non-conventional resources (seawater desalination, recycling of treated wastewater), prevention of natural disasters and the rehabilitation of resources following such disasters.
The EIB pursues its water sector activities in line with its policies on the mitigation of climate change impacts and environmental protection, based on the objectives defined by the European Commission on climate change (2009 White Paper) and inclusive and sustainable growth (“Europe 2020”). With its mandates to operate both within and outside the EU, the EIB is the only development finance institution that contributes to supporting the water sector on five continents.
Outside the EU, the EIB has channelled more than EUR 2 bn (2007-2011) into investments across the entire field of water management and adaptation to climate change in the southern and eastern Mediterranean region, the ACP countries, Eastern Europe, Latin America and Asia. It has thus participated in the major drive of international lenders to increase the share of official development assistance devoted to water in response to Michel Camdessus’s call for action at the 2003 Kyoto Summit. In fact, water financing now accounts for 8% of ODA and this effort has been maintained despite the global economic crisis, so that this sector has remained relatively immune to short-term concerns.
In preparation for the Sixth Forum, the EIB worked closely together with Agence Française de Développement (AfD) to plan and coordinate the contributions of water sector stakeholders and operators on financing issues and the identification of priorities in this respect. A number of these contributions are published on the Forum's "Platform of Solutions" and will be incorporated in the conclusions and recommendations.
During the Forum, the EIB will play a central role in three debates with high-level experts from its operational directorates:
- Water and urban development: while urbanisation and the world’s population are growing at a staggering pace (the OECD estimates that the world’s urban population will reach 3.9 billion in 2030), development agencies and financiers must find solutions to three major issues: 1) the scarcity of finance, exacerbated by the pressure on public resources; 2) the lack of governance of the sector and the projects in terms of both technology and the involvement of the populations concerned; and 3) the lack of project quality in terms of supervision, implementation, sustainability and operation.
- Water and adaptation to climate change: how can the impact of climate change on water availability and preservation be mitigated and managed, given that this resource will become less predictable and more irregular, resulting in drastic shortages or equally devastating flooding depending on the region? Since the COP 15 in Copenhagen in 2009, the EIB has been working closely with the European development finance institutions to improve the effectiveness of climate change adaptation measures and determine the best methods of financing them.
- Exploitation of non-conventional resources, such as the re-use of treated water for farming or industrial purposes or seawater desalination. Accordingly, the EIB is supporting the international solidarity initiative for the Palestinian people that aims to provide Gaza with an ambitious seawater desalination plant which will eventually have a production capacity of 100 million m3 per year, complemented by a complete overhaul of the drinking water supply and distribution system for 1.6 million Gazans. Together with the Arab and European donors gathered at the Forum by French Prime Minister François Fillon and Dr Salam Fayyad, Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority, the EIB is contributing its technical expertise to define the project and its operating framework, as well as to manage the grants provided by the international community.
In addition, the Bank, in conjunction with its partners in the Marseille Centre for Mediterranean Integration (CMI), is presenting at the World Water Forum studies on the following topics which it has co-sponsored with UNEP (Blue Plan), AfD and the World Bank: the re-use of treated wastewater, the cost of environmental damage and green growth in the Mediterranean. The CMI, of which the EIB and the World Bank are co-founders, is a platform for providing technical assistance to enhance public policies in the southern and eastern Mediterranean region in a number of areas, including the water sector. The CMI is a prime example of a multi-partner approach which helps to broaden views and identify innovative solutions (see: www.cmimarseille.org).