In 2019, the AIWW conference welcomed 800 participants from all over the world. This year, corona will prevent many from traveling. Nevertheless, Amsterdam International Water Week dares to organize an in-person conference in addition to online sessions. “We are going for the best of both worlds,” says Kees van der Lugt, regional manager Asia and South America at World Waternet and program director AIWW.
Highlights on the international water calendar such as the World Water Weeks in Copenhagen, Stockholm and Singapore were recently held completely digitally. “We have been deliberating this too,” says Kees. “But online sessions can never replace an in-person conference. We adhere to our motto Meet, Mix and Match. In order to do so, you have to be able to physically meet each other.”
The overarching theme is Blue-green deals with integrated solutions. What is the idea behind it?
“Green deals are the governance tool to achieve climate goals. The EU and the US are working on it. In the Netherlands we came to the conclusion the Climate Agreement and cities also have their green deals. But with green comes inextricably blue. Water is the catalyst. When you talk about climate adaptation, closing cycles, biodiversity or greening agriculture, water is an essential part of the solution. Not a side issue, but the main thing. The water sector can mean a lot for the climate goals. But we are highly dependent on other parties such as governments and investors.”
What do you mean?
“An example: technically we can extract more and more raw materials from waste water. But if a product from waste water still retains the status of waste for the law, then no market will arise. So you need integrated solutions. The legislator must amend the law. A market party must want to market the product. An investor has to put money into it. Those are difficult routes. This is happening in Europe, but also elsewhere. From New York, for example, there is great interest in how AquaMinerals is finding a market in the Netherlands for residuals from waste water.”
The climate challenge is huge and highly urgent, as recently underlined in the latest IPCC report. Do you see any bright spots?
“Looking at the COVID crisis and how quickly companies, governments and citizens moved into a different mode and did the things that were needed: apparently anything is possible! If the need is there, suddenly a lot can be done very quickly. The same should apply to the climate. The crisis is at least as urgent, only the sense of urgency is much less manifest. It is mistakenly seen as a problem of the future. We must act now to keep the problems manageable in the future.
Countries worldwide have endorsed the UN development goals and signed the Paris climate agreement. The goals we need to achieve are clear. Now, understanding each other is an absolute condition to be able to take steps. This underlines the importance of face-to-face meetings. When things get complicated, a personal conversation is still the best way to get together, so I’d herewith like to invite water leaders and water professionals to join us at AIWW2021, preferably in-person.”
Please visit www.aiww2021.com for more information and registration.