Prince Charles, Matt Damon call for wave of investment in water crisis

Prince of Wales launches accelerator aimed at fast-tracking sustainable investments in climate-resilient water programs

A women carries a bucket in Odisha, India. WaterAid/ Anindito Mukherjee

Natural disasters are occurring with increased ferocity around the world. But for communities living in extreme poverty, the climate crisis only exacerbates the struggle to access enough clean water to meet their basic needs.

In response, on the 25th anniversary of the UN’s World Water Day March 22, the Prince of Wales launched a sustainable finance accelerator aimed at fast-tracking investments in climate-resilient water programs for up to 50 million people in water-stressed areas by 2030.

The kickoff of Resilient Water Accelerator follows a pledge to boost water financing made at the Prince’s Sustainable Markets Initiative [SMI] Roundtable on Water in London last year.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has reinforced the need to ensure access to clean water services around the world,” said Prince Charles in a statement. “Since the first meeting in March of last year, the [SMI] Water and Climate Finance Initiative Task Force has worked steadfastly towards achieving this, by boosting climate funding for comprehensive scalable resilient water programmes.”

A report released by WaterAid in October found that despite the climate crisis triggering a rise in natural disasters, only 5% of global climate finance is currently allocated for adapting to climate change – roughly US$30 billion per year. The main recipients of any adaptation-related finance to date have been middle-earning countries. “The result is that not only is not enough being invested, but even that investment is not going to vulnerable countries,” concluded WaterAid.

Last month, the UN warned that over a third of the world – 2.2 billion people ­– still lack access to clean drinking water. The Resilient Water Accelerator will support locations six Africa and South East Asia, where WaterAid says “a new approach can be tested, to address holistic threats on the ground, from pollution of water sources, rising levels of water-stress, exacerbated by dwindling ground-water supplies.”

The Accelerator is being led by international development organization WaterAid and will bring together key governments (including the UK, Bangladesh, Burkina-Faso and Nigeria), private sector leaders and development banks.

“As we head into the crucial climate negotiations at COP in Glasgow later this year, this work will show that practical solutions to the water and climate crisis exist,” said WaterAid’s chief executive Tim Wainwright.

The Prince isn’t the only celebrity getting in on water financing. Actor Matt Damon, who co-founded the nonprofit in 2009, has teamed up with SMI. "We are proud to be part of the Resilient Water Accelerator," tweeted the organization Monday. Damon is calling on a wave of private sector investors to open their wallets and scale up micro-finance solutions to the water crisis. Since 2009, reports that it has doled out US$2.6 billion via 7.2 million loans, improving water access for 33 million people.

“All we're trying to do is get the attention of the heavy hitters to come into this space,” said Damon. “There is so much low-hanging fruit here — and this model really, really works.”

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