Despite near-global consensus on the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement, unresolved and politically contentious trade-offs have undermined implementation. One exemplary case facing difficult trade-offs are Water-Energy-Food (WEF) nexus cases. Here, we extend the nascent ‘Social-Ecological Action Situations’ framework to analyse past coevolution of WEF nexus cases (or other social-ecological systems) to envision possible futures where trade-offs are equally considered and minimized. The researchers illustrate the value of the approach for a WEF nexus case in Switzerland with upstream hydropower reservoirs, water-bound biodiversity, and emerging downstream agricultural irrigation needs. The proposed solution-oriented, transformative approach goes beyond existing frameworks by analysing past coevolution of the intertwined system to build system understanding and to envision a future with concrete policies that would result in a higher adaptive capacity of the system and a compromise within the WEF nexus. The authors argue that this perspective helps to devise policies to address trade-offs in WEF nexus cases and thereby to tackle global crises.
Kellner, E., & Martin, D. A. (2023). Learning from past coevolutionary processes to envision sustainable futures: Extending an action situations approach to the Water-Energy-Food nexus. Earth system governance, 15, 100168.
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