The Sustainable Development Goals challenge markets, regulators and practitioners to identify where and how to act to achieve water, food and energy security.
This challenge calls for responses that are coordinated among the water, food and energy sectors and applied at the appropriate scale – local, national, regional or global. Yet compromise and cooperation between the sectors has been patchy so far and the ability to integrate policies remains limited.
‘Nexus thinking’ is a concept recognising that water, food and energy sectors are interdependent and must be viewed as one system. The water-energy-food nexus could support much-needed building of links between the 17 separate and, at times, conflicting SDGs.
The nexus concept has gained momentum with some private, public and civil society actors because it addresses the complex trade-offs involved in managing water, food and energy resources. There are concerns that blinkered development of resources in one sector reduces the effectiveness of planning and management systems to deliver a sustainable flow of basic resources, creating water, food and energy risks.
Risks are inherent to systems in which different sub-sectors share similar types of resources and face similar uncertainty. Identifying and measuring these shared risks may be a new way to generate improvements in governance and capacity. Incentives for joint action are stronger when risk cannot be managed or mitigated by one sector alone.
A paper recently published in the journal Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability argues that knowing why policy makers make certain choices and what they can do is critical before suggesting solutions.
“This is a great example of the power of convening leaders from across science, policy and practice to rapidly analyse an issue and see a way forward”
Louise Gallagher, Research Programme Head with the Luc Hoffmann Institute (LHI), is the paper’s coordinating author. She says: “We looked critically at how the nexus concept must develop if it is to become helpful in guiding action towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.”
This paper, the result of an 18-month team effort by a range of partners, is an important contribution to efforts to bridge science and policy says Gallagher. It is a foundation stone for LHI’s Linked Indicators for Vital Ecosystem Service (LIVES) project which is developing participatory methods for identifying, measuring and planning for food-energy-water nexus risks in rapidly changing and uncertain conditions.
Read the paper here.
Main image: © Brent Stirton / Getty Images / WWF-UK