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News announcement21 April 2023Directorate-General for Environment

EU reaffirms Zero Pollution pledges at UN Water Conference

The UN Water Conference in March 2023 highlighted the need to address the global water crisis, with the EU bringing its commitments to reduce water pollution, restore rivers, improve risk management, and promote transboundary water cooperation. 

The UN Water Conference held in New York from 22-24 March 2023 was the largest attempt of its kind in almost 50 years to mobilise global action for water resilience and security.  The conference highlighted the urgent need to address the global water crisis, which is driven by overdemand, mismanagement, and the impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss. Unless immediate action is taken, nearly half of the world's population will face acute water stress by 2030. 

The EU, which participated in the conference, brought a number of commitments to the Water Action Agenda to address these challenges. One of the main contributors to the global water crisis is pollution, and the EU has pledged to tackle this issue by reducing the pollution of rivers and oceans by 50%. This includes reducing pollutants such as pesticides, nutrients, antimicrobials, and plastic litter at sea, as well as a 30% reduction in microplastics. 

In addition to pollution reduction, the EU also presented pledges to increase the restoration of rivers, improve risk management, preparedness, and response to floods, droughts, and sea level rise, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in water management. These commitments are part of the EU's broader goal to ensure water security for all by 2050. 

Furthermore, the EU emphasised other priorities in water management, such as access to safe drinking water and sanitation as a human right, protecting and restoring aquatic ecosystems, promoting circularity in the use of water for industry, energy, and agriculture, and promoting transboundary water cooperation as a catalyst for peace and security. The EU and its Member States have committed over €1.1 billion for transboundary water management in Africa and Central Asia, covering 47 countries and 18 major transboundary water basins. 

In summary, pollution reduction plays a crucial role in achieving water security for sustainable development. The harmful effects of pollution on water resources and aquatic ecosystems are well documented, and reducing pollution is a key step towards ensuring access to safe drinking water and sanitation for all. The UN Water Conference provided an opportunity for world leaders to collaborate and advance the water agenda. 

Further information

For further details, the press release is available here.


Publication date
21 April 2023
Directorate-General for Environment

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