Nexus Approach Must Be Applied to Consumption

Bonn2011 Nexus Conference // Nexus Approach Must Be Applied to Consumption

The water, food, energy nexus approach puts a great deal of emphasis on increasing efficiency within production; however, it also must be applied to consumption in order to lower increasing demand from population and economic growth, according to Holger Hoff, senior research fellow at the Stockholm Environment Institute and lead author of the nexus background report for the Bonn2011 Conference.

"There will simply not be enough of certain resources, if current production and consumption patterns continue" Hoff told OOSKAnews via phone this week. "Any approach has to deal with resource use efficiency," he added.

The report, "Understanding the Nexus: Background Paper for the Bonn2011 Nexus Conference," says "improved water, energy and food security can be achieved through a nexus approach — an approach that integrates management and governance across sectors and scales."

"A nexus approach can also support the transition to a Green Economy, which aims, among other things, at resource use efficiency and greater policy coherence. Given the increasing interconnectedness across sectors and in space and time, a reduction of negative economic, social and environmental externalities can increase overall resource use efficiency, provide additional benefits and secure the human rights to water and food," it adds.

This focus on spatial externalities is something Hoff cited as a another highlight of the report. He said globalization often "externalizes our consumption effects, e.g. through trade or foreign direct investment."

This is particularly true when looking at consumption in the developed world, where resource extraction is often replaced by importing resources from other regions.

The externalities associated with extracting resources falls on the local people, who are not consuming the resource, as well as on the local environment he said.

"True costs may be hidden in long production chains, and so the full life cycle of any product must be looked at through a nexus lens," he added.

Hoff said that with regard to climate change, "crisis often provides opportunity." This is because climate change puts even more pressure on each of the individual sectors, which "may open new ways of thinking, particularly nexus thinking," he said.

"Given that crisis often leads to change, the increasing climate pressure could provide new opportunities for overcoming inertia and lock-in in narrow sectoral solutions, and facilitate integration of climate protection, ecosystem approaches and sustainable development goals within a Green Economy," according to the report.

Hoff considers the report to be a "starting point from which more thorough analysis needs to be developed," because a "full nexus approach doesn't really exist yet in practice," which makes the case studies "partial nexus approaches".

The report also outlines several knowledge gaps in the nexus, which includes insufficient data on "sustainably available water resources, impacts across the nexus of hydropower, biofuels and the energy sector in general, full life-cycle assessments in terms of water, land and energy use, energy productivity in agriculture, and uniformly applicable 'water footprint' frameworks."

"Nevertheless a number of recurring areas of opportunity for sustainably improving water, energy and food security emerged when compiling this paper," the report adds.

These include "increasing resource productivity, using waste as a resource in multi-use systems, stimulating development through economic incentives, governance, institutions and policy coherence, benefiting from productive ecosystems, integrated poverty alleviation and green growth, and capacity building and awareness raising."

The report "underpins policy recommendations," which were written in a separate report to be presented to the conference in draft form, and which will be finalized with adjustments coming from the conference.

The Bonn2011 Conference, "The Water, Energy and Food Security Nexus: Solutions for the Green Economy," will be held from November 16-18. It is the German government's contribution to the Rio20+ summit to be held in June 2012.

One way forward towards the Rio20+ summit that Hoff finds "quite interesting" is Sustainable Development Goals, which would be "tangible goals for the Green Economy to work towards." They would be designed in line with the original Rio commitments and might be similar to the UN's Millennium Development Goals in that they set quantitative targets to be achieved at certain dates.

"If Bonn can recommend quantitative methods and tools that can underpin Sustainable Development Goals, that would be a very useful contribution to Rio+20," he said.

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