In combination, the risks and challenges that have been mapped in the previous storylines, define four global hotspot landscapes. These landscapes and their interdependencies provide a frame for building a more resilient world, on various scales.
The global dryland population is projected to increase from circa 2.8 billion today to 4 billion by 2050. In drylands, increased water stress and crop yield gaps may contribute to increases in migration and the risk of local conflict. This is especially the case for Sub-Saharan Africa, where a 40% increase in the rural population is projected as well as a tripling of the urban dryland population.
Transformation towards a sustainable world calls for improving human well-being while alleviating environmental degradation and risks.
The opportunities to do this differ per region. Regions for which economic development and per-capita incomes are projected to be high may have the best opportunities.
Following the Paris Climate Agreement, it may be expected that, towards 2050, around an annual USD 0.1 trillion will become available to support both mitigation and adaptation projects in developing countries.
Cities are focal points of investments. Steady economic development towards 2050 will result in ongoing investments in vital sectors, such as urban development, infrastructure and agriculture. This offer opportunities to effectively improve human well-being and reduce environmental risks for 70% of the global population.
It will be a major challenge, however, to create equitable opportunities for people in formal and informal urban settlements and those in rural areas. Projected investments in the agricultural sector in developing countries are far lower than those in urban development and infrastructure.
Over time, water has proven to be a source of collaboration rather than conflict. Embedded in the various socio-ecological landscapes, water may form a basis for bridging interests, overcoming lock-ins and building a shared future.
Integrating water- and climate-related challenges and global commitments in development strategies requires a transformation of how strategies are built and implemented. Scale- and place-based approaches and building coalitions will be key for working effectively in the right direction.
Grouping water- and climate-related risks and challenges into four global landscapes provides a framework for a climate-resilient and sustainable development.
These hotspot landscapes illustrate that a transnational understanding of the challenges and pathways to solutions will be needed to bridge the various scales and build a safer and climate-resilient world, reducing the major risks for dryland areas, cities, transboundary river basins, coastal areas and deltas.
Global coherent adaptation pathways are still lacking. Creating them is an essential, first step towards sustainable and climate-resilient development.
Although, worldwide, there are many water and adaptation projects, there is no shared view on what could be achieved in climate-proofing any future developments. For many years, the World Economic Forum has already warned about structural adaptation failure being one of the 10 major global risks. Creating shared future adaptation pathways, therefore, seems of evident importance.
Under a business-as-usual scenario, water and climate risks will continue to increase. A low ambition level may not lead to bending this trend to a sustainable future.
Mainstreaming water- and climate-related challenges in all development strategies, decisions and projects will be needed to really bend the trend.