Vice-President Ambroise Fayolle speech at the Leaders segment of the UN 2023 Water Conference.

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Ladies and gentlemen,

Scientists tell us that the water on our planet is older than the sun and that life began in the ocean. No life on earth can exist without water. All living organisms consist predominantly of water. Water is our past, our present and our future.

Yet Earth’s limited freshwater resources are already overburdened by growing populations, water-thirsty economies, and climate change. This threatens our precious natural capital, our food supplies, the stability of societies around the world, and our very lives. Moreover, the recent IPCC Synthesis Report for the 6th Assessment Report reminds us once again that widespread and rapid changes in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere and biosphere have occurred. Human-caused climate change is already affecting many weather and climate extremes in every region across the globe. This has led to widespread adverse impacts and related losses and damages to nature and people, many related to water.

As the climate bank of the European Union, the European Investment Bank is committed to devoting at least half of all its annual lending to climate action and environmental sustainability. Water is at the heart of our ambitious strategy to triple our financing for climate adaptation by 2025.

Just yesterday, we published our new strategic orientation to guide our financing for the water sector.

  • It lays out the types of investments that, we believe, will improve the impact of what we do, and speed up the achievement of our climate and environmental goals. 
  • It puts more emphasis on both the contribution and the importance of protecting nature and biodiversity.
  • And, for the first time, it pinpoints the importance of investment in agricultural water systems.

We are clear on our objective: to finance and catalyse additional investment to improve water supply systems, transform water resource management, and enhance resilience to floods and droughts around the world.  

The European Investment Bank has invested over €80 billion in water projects in past decades, including €15.5 billion in the last six years.

Thirty percent of our water lending these days is deployed outside the EU, often in the most vulnerable, land-locked and least-developed countries. Our projects range from drought resilience in Malawi, to water supply and sanitation in Niger, and wastewater collection in Uzbekistan. We are currently financing flood management projects in Benin, water infrastructure in Mozambique, and, alongside our partners in the region, a desalination plant in drought-stricken Jordan, which will secure clean water for millions of people.

But all of this needs effective collaboration. Partnerships among public banks can have a crucial role in achieving the water related SDGs. Let me give you an example of one such partnership that stands out for me: the Water Finance Coalition. Launched in 2020, the Water Finance Coalition is a network of Public Development Banks, committed to strengthening water dialogue, collaboration, alliances and knowledge. Its goal is to mobilise and catalyse more financial resources, both public and private, for the water and sanitation sector. The EIB was one of the founding members of this coalition, launched under the leadership of the French Development Agency – AFD, and currently led by CAF, the development bank of Latin America.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We have a unique opportunity today to put water at the top of the global agenda and to tackle the impending crisis head-on. We must stop taking our most precious resource for granted and understand the challenge for what it is – a vital resource without which our planet and our communities will not survive, let alone thrive.   

Thank you for your attention.