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.
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.
-AMI Declaration: https://iccinet.org/ambition-on-melting-ice/
-State of the Cryosphere Report 2022, including chapter on Mountain Glaciers and Snow: https://iccinet.org/statecryo22/
-COP27 Cryosphere Pavilion Side Event recordings focused on HKH/Mountain Glaciers and Snow: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL7jYwbz8AZmiH3Tx2KMZZN8Sb7xbBX3fG
-COP27 Cryosphere Pavilion Side Event recordings focused on African and Tropical Glaciers: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL7jYwbz8AZmjRauYZFlaOF_yCOoEmviOQ
SDGS & Targets
Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
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
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
Change in the extent of water-related ecosystems over time
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
Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
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
SDG 14 targets covered
Deliverables & Timeline
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This commitment aims to benefit mountain, downstream, and low-lying communities worldwide, with particular benefits to vulnerable communities including women and children.