UCL: UCL academic to co-chair global commission on the economics of water

The commission was launched at the 9th World Water Forum in Dakar, Senegal. The forum takes place every three years and brings together global key decision makers to collaborate on worldwide water challenges such as floods, pollution or droughts.

The commission will conduct an in-depth, independent global review; ‘The Economics of Water and Beyond’ will feed into the UN 2023 Water Conference, taking a systems-level approach to water governance. It will pay particular attention to the challenges around valuing water as a common good and a natural asset, which is an area of particular focus for Professor Mazzucato.

The team will aim to challenge the current global economic system’s logic around water management, looking at evidence gathered to date and providing input into societal dialogue focused on remedial action, before integrating results into the final report.

Professor Mazzucato explained: “Water is at the centre of the economy, health and climate, and it’s a cross-cutting feature across all Sustainable Development Goals. Yet, our society severely undervalues it because we equate value with price and marginalise invaluable assets like water into simple externalities.”

‘The Economics of Water and Beyond’ will build on impact achieved by two earlier global reviews, ‘The Economics of Climate Change’ and ‘The Economics of Biodiversity’. It will focus on three points: assessing the economic, social and environmental benefits of healthy and resilient fresh water systems globally as an integral part of the biosphere; assessing the economic, social and environmental costs and risks of degradation of fresh water systems as an integral part of the biosphere; identifying actions that enhance the health of fresh water systems, improving access to water services and boosting economic well-being, with particular attention to inequality and groups that are more adversely affected by the degradation of fresh water systems and are most exposed to water risk (floods, droughts, pollution or depletion) and are excluded from water services.

The commission will be co-chaired by four high-level policymakers and thought leaders:

Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO)
Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore
Professor Johan Rockström, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK)
Professor Mariana Mazzucato, UCL IIPP
Professor Mazzucato continued: “It is an honour to work in the Commission with global scientists, activists, researchers, policymakers and academics to get this right. This is an opportunity to be extremely bold in putting forward new economic thinking. Beyond identifying market-fixing techniques, our work will lead to shaping and co-creating the economy with the common good in mind.

“It will force us to rethink issues around value, to ask how we can value water in a comprehensive systemic way, how we can mobilise innovation systems in a more purposeful way, how can we build capacity at the local, regional, national and international governmental level to govern water effectively with the collective good at the centre.”

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