"A matter of survival for the planet and humanity as a whole"

Interview with Dieter Ernst // "A matter of survival for the planet and humanity as a whole"

Dieter Ernst is a former state secretary, and represents the RWL Water Group in the German Advisory Group.

As a co-initiator of the 'Berlin Water Dialogues' discussion series and member of the German Advisory Group (DBK), Dieter Ernst talks in this interview about the exchanges between the Berlin Initiative and the Bonn2011 Nexus Conference within the framework of the recently initiated satellite discussions.


Mr Ernst, do the enormous challenges in the nexus of water, energy and food safety require new forms of dialogue and interdisciplinary exchange?

Definitely. We are slowly coming to understand the complexity of water as an issue and the need for networking. This requires completely new approaches and platforms for dialogue. And that's exactly what we want to achieve with the Berlin Water Dialogues.

What contribution can the Berlin Water Dialogues make to the Bonn2011 Nexus Conference?

I think we prepared the ground in readiness for the Bonn conference and gained initial insights, which we intend to pursue further following the conference in the coming years.

What is the central message to the Bonn2011 Nexus Conference that emerged from the first session of the Berlin Water Dialogues in May 2011?

Here I'd like to refer to our {bonn_2011_process/show__41_a_message_to_the_water_energy_and_food_security_nexus_conference_in_november_2011_in_bonn|"Message to the Water, Energy and Food Security Nexus Conference"}. Generally speaking, the conclusion from Berlin is that Bonn's approach to the issues and content is absolutely relevant and current.

Are established concepts — such as integrated water resource management — reaching their limits in the face of the new challenges in the nexus? Why do we need new approaches?

I think so, yes. The concept for integrated water resource management is undoubtedly correct, but doesn't go far enough, because only those directly affected by water are included.

How can we succeed in future in taking our thinking and decision-making on resource distribution beyond the constraints of sectors and levels?

In my view this is something which either works through incentives — because ultimately everybody will benefit from sustainable solutions, and this can be motivated either by reason or incentives — or alternatively through clear regulations or determining factors such as public opinion and social consensus.

Who do you see as the changemakers who need to play a pioneering role in reorienting decision-making structures in the nexus?

Ultimately, all the decision-makers at all levels whose measures have an effect on the availability and use of water as a resource. These range from elected representatives through heads of companies to water experts in all professions and users — many more people and groups than you might think of at first glance.

What incentives can help create a new decision-making culture on resource use among the various stakeholder groups in the nexus?

This is probably one of the most difficult challenges. As I see it, you need to start by creating awareness that significant progress on this issue is a matter of survival for the planet and humanity as a whole. The Bonn Conference is an important contribution to this.

There are already water shortages in many parts of the world — why are you optimistic that human and natural water needs can be met in 2033 despite population growth and climate change?

Because firstly, there is basically enough water available in the world, and in contrast to fossil fuels this isn't irrevocably consumed. Secondly, we're on the right track with the discussions we've already initiated and there are more and more allies in this. Furthermore, I am a committed optimist.

More about the German Advisory Group (DBK)

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More about Dieter Ernst

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More about the Berlin Water Dialogues

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