Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

  • Comment
  • Published:

Climate policy is inundating the SDGs

As climate-induced shocks and stresses increasingly occupy media attention, funding, national and global policy, and technical practice are shifting towards alignment with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s (UNFCCC’s) Paris Agreement and away from the more narrowly sectoral Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Water resilience is emerging as a critical delivery mechanism for the Paris Agreement as the importance of adaptation and resilience accelerates. The SDGs, in contrast, have been unable to make use of either water resources or climate resilience as enabling tools for cross-sectoral integration and development coherence.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Buy this article

Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Fig. 1: Malheur National Wildlife refuge in North America’s Great Basin.

John H. Matthews


  1. Stern, N. The Economics of Climate Change: The Stern Review (Cambridge University Press, 2007).

  2. IPCC Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability (eds Pörtner, H.-O. et al.) (Cambridge University Press., 2022).

  3. Kerres, M. et al. Stop floating, start swimming: water and climate change - interlinkages and prospects for future action (GIZ, 2020);

  4. Semarasekara, V. How water finally became a climate change priority. Scientific American (31 January 2023).

  5. Timboe, I. & Matthews, J. Water at COP27: hydrating climate policy negotiations in the desert. New Security Beat (6 December 2022).

  6. Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement (UNFCCC, 2022);

  7. Timboe, I., Pharr, K. & Matthews, J. Watering the NDCs: National Climate Planning for 2020—How water-aware climate policies can strengthen climate change mitigation & adaptation goals (Corvallis, USA, 2020).

  8. Milly, P. et al. Science 319, 573–574 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Hallegatte, S., et al. Investment Decision Making Under Deep Uncertainty: Application to Climate Change (World Bank, 2012);

  10. Brown, C., Ghile, Y., Laverty, M. & Li, K. Water Resour. Res. (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Haasnoot, M., Kwakkel, J., Walker, W. & ter Maat, J. Global Environ. Change 23, 485–498 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Cassin, J., Davis, K., Matthews, J. Nature for Climate Action in the Nationally Determined Contributions (Forest Trends, AGWA, 2021);

  13. Brown, C., Boltz, F. & Dominique, K. Strategic Investment Pathways for resilient water systems (OECD, 2022);

  14. Resilience Rating System: A Methodology for Building and Tracking Resilience to Climate Change (World Bank, 2021);

Download references


I would like to thank I. Timboe for her comments on an earlier draft.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to John H. Matthews.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

J.H.M. worked as an advisor to the Asian Development Bank and World Bank on water and climate change issues. He is currently working with a coalition of national party, private sector, and NGO groups on a set of cases and recommendations to articulate water resilience as an operational economic concept, which is funded by the Kingdom of the Netherlands, GIZ, and the Kingdom of Spain.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Matthews, J.H. Climate policy is inundating the SDGs. Nat Water 1, 216–218 (2023).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


Quick links

Nature Briefing Anthropocene

Sign up for the Nature Briefing: Anthropocene newsletter — what matters in anthropocene research, free to your inbox weekly.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing: Anthropocene