Sorry, you need to enable JavaScript to visit this website.
United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

Preserving the cryosphere for the Water Action Agenda

International Cryosphere Climate Initiative (
Non-governmental organization (NGO)

    Preserving the cryosphere (Earth’s frozen regions, including high mountains) is essential to ensuring freshwater availability and reducing disaster risk for billions of people worldwide. The mountain cryosphere provides crucial water resources for drinking, agriculture, industry, and hydropower, while also supporting essential ecosystems in mountain and downstream areas. Furthermore, the melting of mountain glaciers, in combination with polar ice sheets, contributes to sea-level rise; in addition to directly threatening low-lying communities and infrastructure, this also results in increasing saltwater incursion impacting freshwater availability for coastal communities.

    Yet despite recent advances in knowledge about climate-induced changes in the global cryosphere, especially around projected future impacts of cryosphere melt at different levels of global warming with direct relevance to the Water Action Agenda, these changes are minimally understood and under-appreciated by voters and decision-makers. Therefore, despite the significance of the cryosphere to societies around the world – including those that are far from ice and snow – the cryosphere has too often been marginal to global policymaking around both climate ambition and water action.

    The International Cryosphere Climate Initiative (ICCI) therefore works to support urgent and ambitious climate action in order to preserve as much of the global cryosphere as possible – and thus to safeguard the lives and livelihoods of billions of people worldwide, particularly in mountain, downstream, and low-lying areas. This includes work in mountain regions to address heating and combined heating-cooking stoves, as well as agricultural burning; these projects protect watersheds by decreasing black carbon that impacts ice and snow as well as health, preserving forest biomass and preserving water through fire-free conservation agriculture methods that also decrease fertilizer pollution and eutrophication in nearby waterways.

    ICCI also serves as the Secretariat to the “Ambition on Melting Ice” (AMI) on Sea-level Rise and Mountain Water Resources high-level group. The AMI Declaration at COP27 brought together 20 countries from mountain and polar regions, as well as those dependent on mountain water resources and healthy coastal aquifers (see “Countries”). AMI will work to ensure that policy-relevant knowledge about climate-induced changes in the global cryosphere is understood by publics and policymakers worldwide; to support policymaking at all levels that is informed by the latest evidence from cryosphere science and advances urgent and ambitious climate action; and to assist countries with adaptation and disaster risk reduction related to the growing, serious impacts of cryosphere change, including as linked to the Water Action Agenda.

    Expected Impact

    ICCI has a strong and extensive network of Governments, IGOs, NGOs, and scientific institutions. ICCI brings these stakeholders together to advance urgent, ambitious climate action to preserve as much of the global cryosphere as possible, thereby making important contributions to the Water Action Agenda. In line with ICCI’s mission – as well as the Water Action Agenda, the recent UNGA resolution A/RES/77/172, and other recent initiatives such as the International Year of Sustainable Mountain Development 2022 and the upcoming UN International Year of Glaciers 2025 – ICCI’s commitment is intended to accelerate the implementation of SDG 6 and 13, which are inextricably interlinked through the cryosphere. Under Goal 6, ICCI’s activities through this commitment will help to ensure the availability and management of freshwater by supporting global governments to preserve water resources that are stored in the mountain cryosphere through mitigation action; while also supporting Governments, IGOs, and civil society to adapt to inevitable changes in mountain water resources that result from committed glacier loss. Under Goal 13, ICCI will continue to support Governments to take urgent action to mitigate climate change at a global scale, with the goals of minimizing cryosphere loss and therefore the loss of freshwater resources, as well as minimizing saltwater incursion into freshwater resources.


    Cryosphere scientists, academic institutions, IGOs and NGOs globally, as well as members of the "Ambition on Melting Ice" (AMI) on Sea-Level Rise and Mountain Water Resources high-level group.

    Additional information

    -AMI Declaration:
    -State of the Cryosphere Report 2022, including chapter on Mountain Glaciers and Snow:
    -COP27 Cryosphere Pavilion Side Event recordings focused on HKH/Mountain Glaciers and Snow:
    -COP27 Cryosphere Pavilion Side Event recordings focused on African and Tropical Glaciers:

    Goal 6

    Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

    Goal 6


    By 2030, achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all


    Proportion of population using safely managed drinking water services


    By 2030, achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations


    Proportion of population using (a) safely managed sanitation services and (b) a hand-washing facility with soap and water


    By 2030, improve water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing release of hazardous chemicals and materials, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and substantially increasing recycling and safe reuse globally


    Proportion of domestic and industrial wastewater flows safely treated


    Proportion of bodies of water with good ambient water quality


    By 2030, substantially increase water-use efficiency across all sectors and ensure sustainable withdrawals and supply of freshwater to address water scarcity and substantially reduce the number of people suffering from water scarcity

    Change in water-use efficiency over time


    Level of water stress: freshwater withdrawal as a proportion of available freshwater resources


    By 2030, implement integrated water resources management at all levels, including through transboundary cooperation as appropriate


    Degree of integrated water resources management 


    Proportion of transboundary basin area with an operational arrangement for water cooperation


    By 2020, protect and restore water-related ecosystems, including mountains, forests, wetlands, rivers, aquifers and lakes

    Change in the extent of water-related ecosystems over time


    By 2030, expand international cooperation and capacity-building support to developing countries in water- and sanitation-related activities and programmes, including water harvesting, desalination, water efficiency, wastewater treatment, recycling and reuse technologies

    Amount of water- and sanitation-related official development assistance that is part of a government-coordinated spending plan


    Support and strengthen the participation of local communities in improving water and sanitation management


    Proportion of local administrative units with established and operational policies and procedures for participation of local communities in water and sanitation management

    Goal 13

    Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

    Goal 13


    Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries


    Number of deaths, missing persons and directly affected persons attributed to disasters per 100,000 population


    Number of countries that adopt and implement national disaster risk reduction strategies in line with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–2030


    Proportion of local governments that adopt and implement local disaster risk reduction strategies in line with national disaster risk reduction strategies


    Integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies and planning


    Number of countries with nationally determined contributions, long-term strategies, national adaptation plans and adaptation communications, as reported to the secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change


    Total greenhouse gas emissions per year


    Improve education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning


    Extent to which (i) global citizenship education and (ii) education for sustainable development are mainstreamed in (a) national education policies; (b) curricula; (c) teacher education; and (d) student assessment


    Implement the commitment undertaken by developed-country parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to a goal of mobilizing jointly $100 billion annually by 2020 from all sources to address the needs of developing countries in the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency on implementation and fully operationalize the Green Climate Fund through its capitalization as soon as possible


    Amounts provided and mobilized in United States dollars per year in relation to the continued existing collective mobilization goal of the $100 billion commitment through to 2025


    Promote mechanisms for raising capacity for effective climate change-related planning and management in least developed countries and small island developing States, including focusing on women, youth and local and marginalized communities



    Number of least developed countries and small island developing States with nationally determined contributions, long-term strategies, national adaptation plans and adaptation communications, as reported to the secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

    Organize AMI Technical Workshop around UNFCCC Subsidiary Bodies Meetings (SB58) in Bonn, Germany focused on vast consequences of climate change-induced cryosphere changes, including impacts on freshwater resources
    Seminar on fire-free methods and benefits to key watersheds in Ecuador
    Cryosphere and water resource events at COP28 Cryosphere Pavilion in Dubai; and support overall efforts to achieve stronger decision language, including references to the relationship between the 1.5°C limit and cryosphere, in COP28 decision texts
    Release of State of the Cryosphere Report 2023, including chapters on water impacts in mountains and from sea-level rise
    Staff / Technical expertise
    Time and expertise contributed by ICCI Director, ICCI Global Mountains Director, ICCI UNFCCC Director, ICCI Antarctica Director, and ICCI Outreach Director, as well as other consulting and volunteer experts from the scientific and policy communities
    No progress reports have been submitted. Please sign in and click here to submit one.
    Action Network
    water logo
    23 March 2023 (start date)
    23 March 2024 (date of completion)
    International Cryosphere Climate Initiative
    1. Global
    Other beneficiaries

    This commitment aims to benefit mountain, downstream, and low-lying communities worldwide, with particular benefits to vulnerable communities including women and children.

    More information
    Czech Republic
    Czech Republic
    New Zealand
    New Zealand
    Global Action Plan
    Contact Information

    Morgan, Global Mountains Director