Press Releases

    UNIS/INF/252
    30 November 2007

    Strategies to Handle Impact of Climate Change in the Danube Region to be Discussed in Vienna

    VIENNA, 30 November (UN Information Service) -- The first international conference on "Adaptation of Water Management to Effects of Climate Change in the Danube River Basin" will open in Vienna, Austria, on Monday, 3 December. The conference aims at assessing the effects of climate change on the Danube region and the affected sectors, and to develop strategies to address the situation.

    "Mitigating the root causes of climate change is a must, but it has to be accompanied by adaptation measures to be able to cope with the direct effects of climate change on economy and ecology", said Josef Pröll, Austrian Minister for Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management.

    Fluctuations in the climate have had a profound effect on the Danube region over the past five years: regional floods occurred in 2002, 2005, and 2006; dry periods in 2003 and 2007. According to the forecasts, such extreme weather with negative economic impact will increase in the future. A marked rise in temperatures, and variations in amount and distribution of precipitation will lead to changes in the availability of water. These fluctuations will also affect the production of hydropower, inland navigation, wetlands and much more.

    These developments and the adaptation of water management in the Danube region are the subject of this conference, which is taking place on the initiative of the Austrian Federal Ministry of European and International Affairs, the Austrian Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management, and the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR).

    Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik stressed the connection between the Vienna conference and the UN conference on climate change in Bali, where negotiations on a succession agreement to the Kyoto Protocol are due to begin. "We wanted to show that it is necessary to translate the objectives of the conference into practice. Adaptation strategies must be developed at the local and regional level. Hence, it makes sense to focus on the Danube, this valuable water reservoir connecting our region", said Ms. Plassnik. "Only if we are able to think globally and act locally, will we be able to meet the challenges of climate change", she added.

    "The fact that we are mitigating the causes of climate change and at the same time trying to find techniques to help us adapt to the effect of climate change is no contradiction, but an absolute necessity", said Minister Pröll. "First, it is important to understand the correlations and then to develop and implement national and regional strategies. These are, for example, flood control, but also the fight against water shortage and droughts. A lot of money is spent today throughout Europe for both phenomena. In both respects, Austria has and will continue to play an important role in the Danube region."

    "The floods of the spring 2006 have caused damage worth over 200 million euros in Romania alone, and this year's drought led to a dramatic increase in food prices in the region", said Philip Weller, Executive Secretary of the ICPDR. "Cooperation between the Danube countries is of utmost importance: A better adjustment of the respective national water management to the consequences of climate change could help to decrease the economic damages in each country."

    The political instruments are already in place, i.e. the European Union Water Framework Directive as well as Floods Directive. Both are being implemented in the European Union and most of the countries of the Danube region. However, to date, the possible effects of climate change on water management have not been taken into account. The Vienna meeting hopes to address the situation.

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    For further information, contact:

    Jasmine Bachmann
    International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR)
    Mobile: +43 676 845 200 220
    Email: jasmine.bachmann@unvienna.org
    Website: www.icpdr.org
    http://www.icpdr.org/icpdr-pages/climate_change_conference.htm