In developing countries with low levels of access to modern energy services, energy is regarded as a transformational resource to fuel economic growth, for economic growth and energy consumption are linked in a feedback loop. Increased energy access fosters income growth, while energy use tends to increase with income. Global projections indicate that demand for freshwater, energy and food will increase significantly over the next decades. All three are closely intertwined and their interactions are complex and dynamic, implying that sectoral issues cannot be looked at in isolation from one another. In addition, negative consequences of climate change add uncertainty to these complex interrelations and escalate the need for sustainable resource use.
The side event “Energy Access and Climate Change through the Food-Water-Energy Nexus” was designed to help develop an insightful perspective on the nature of the nexus challenge in beneficiary countries. Featuring a distinguished panel of experts, the event sought to challenge thinking and spur increased motivation to contribute to addressing these integrated challenges in new ways.
The session was moderated by Faris Hasan, OFID Director of Corporate Planning and Economic Services, who set the scene for the debate and outlined OFID’s activities in promoting the nexus. Hasan disclosed that OFID had adopted the nexus as the central theme of its Corporate Plan 2016–2025. “While placing energy access at the core of its strategic framework, OFID is also keenly aware of the nexus-related risks and uncertainties,” he said. “We anticipate 70 percent of OFID’s activities in the coming decade will be dedicated to these critical sectors, with transportation as an additional enabling sector,” he added. He emphasized, however, that the onus of adopting a nexus perspective in development intervention lay with development planners in partner countries.
Among the distinguished speakers was David C Carroll, President of the International Gas Union. Carroll emphasized the role that natural gas can play in providing electricity to those who lack access to it, particularly in Sub Saharan Africa. “While gas is slightly disadvantaged to coal in terms of cost, both the water requirements and the greenhouse gas emissions from gas-based power generation are much lower,” he argued.
Professor Tony Ryan, Director of the Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures at the University of Sheffield, presented systems that the university is pioneering, including one involving the production of food from sea water and sunshine. This system, he informed participants, combined the use of indigenous resources and had the potential to contribute to diversified growth in the MENA region.
Also on the panel was Martin Hiller, Director General of the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP), who took the opportunity to review the performance of the “OFID-REEEP Revolving Capital Pool.” The Pool was established in 2014 to encourage early-phase companies offering energy solutions in the agro-food value chain to adopt the nexus approach. Enhanced since by contributions from the Austrian government, it has funded two energy access projects that delivered positive impact on the water and food sectors in Kenya and Tanzania.
Philipp Knill, Head of Division in the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, explained the roles that the NDC Partnership (a new implementation partnership set up jointly by the German Government and the World Resources Institute), the Global Environment Facility, and InsuResilience (the G7 Climate Risk Insurance Initiative) could play in designing policies, investing and ensuring the strong participation of private sector in integrated approaches.
The final speaker, Aurel Lübke, CEO of the Austrian company Compost Systems, spoke about waste management as a “low hanging fruit.” Waste and landfills, he said, were creating between four and ten percent of a country’s greenhouse gas emissions by emitting methane into the environment. He argued that the treatment of waste could reduce these emissions by as much as eighty percent, while at the same time creating compost that would nourish poor top soils. Applying compost, he pointed out, halted desertification and reduced the loss of nutrients into the ground.