Research

Publication // Can the Implementation of the Water-Energy-Food Nexus Support Economic Growth in the Mediterranean Region? The Current Status and the Way Forward

By Markantonis, V., Arnaud, R., Karabulut, A., El Hajj, R., Altinbilek, D., Awad, I., ... & Matoussi, M. S. (2019). This policy note paper aims to address the issue of how implementation of the WEF Nexus can support economic growth in the Mediterranean region.

The Water-Energy-Food (WEF) Nexus offers an integrated approach analyzing the synergies and trade-offs between the different sectors in order to maximize the efficiency of using the resources, whereas adapting optimum policies and institutional arrangements. The Mediterranean is a region where we observe a large spectrum of issues emanating from water pollution and natural resource degradation to water scarcity, large amounts of food loss and waste and increasing demand for energy and food. Agricultural practices, urban development, demand management for water, and protection of ecosystems, particularly aquatic ecosystems, are areas of particular intervention available to the decision-makers in enhancing availability of water for the various water using sectors. In this context, the current policy note paper aims to address a major issue: how can the implementation of the WEF Nexus support the economic growth in the Mediterranean? Based on the outcome of an experts and stakeholders regional workshop, this paper presents the current status, including the opportunities and the practices of applying the WEF Nexus in the Mediterranean and draws specific recommendations for the way forward.

In order to move from concepts to implementation, it is necessary to identify the economic sectors of the Nexus that This is the main topic of the present policy note, which aims to analyze the potential of a WEF Nexus approach to create economic growth. The focus is on the Mediterranean region, an area under threat of water scarcity due to climate variability and change, population growth, developmental pressures and consequent imbalanced water allocations by different sectoral water users, and where demand for food and energy is expected to increase in the coming decades. We analyze specific economic options, policy setting and institutional arrangements that, if incorporated into a WEF Nexus approach, could contribute to sustainable economic growth in this region. The content of this paper is based on the outcomes of the Workshop “Can implementation of the Water Nexus support economic growth in the Mediterranean region?” held in Ankara, Turkey, on 12–13 February 2015.

In the first section, we gather evidence on the opportunities for adopting the WEF Nexus in the Mediterranean region. Water resources are particularly limited and vulnerable to pollution and weather extremes in the Mediterranean countries. Despite water scarcity and land degradation, agricultural practices do not represent sound, sustainable practices, and a significant proportion of food remains lost or wasted in the food value chain. Moreover, environmental protection is occasionally in conflict with economic growth. The integrated perspective provided by the WEF Nexus may help to meet the needs of different water uses and ecosystem protection, by stimulating appropriate investments in the Mediterranean region, based on consistent and effective cross-cutting water, energy and food policies. Nexus interdependencies should also be taken into account for improved designs of water tariffs for domestic, agricultural, and industrial water uses in the region. In the second section, we discuss the barriers hampering the adoption of a cross-sectoral perspective for integrated water management. The discussion focuses on administrative, legislative and market-related barriers (transaction costs, interest groups, constraints due to limited water property rights, tariffs, subsidies etc.). “Good” and “bad” practices linking water-energy-food security and ecosystem protection to investments, jobs creation, innovation, and competitiveness in the Mediterranean region are identified, taking account of feasibility in terms of the presence or absence of an enabling environment, potential for growth, implementation and transaction costs, actors involved, and financial risks. The final section of this paper provides specific recommendations and suggests a way forward for implementing the WEF Nexus in the Mediterranean area. This section explicitly covers institutional, economic and policy aspects that would facilitate a better implementation of the WEF Nexus. We discuss in particular how to improve governance and collaboration among stakeholders and between stakeholders and governments, in order to optimally tap the potential added value that the Nexus can bring to the economic growth of the Mediterranean region.

Key messages

Although there is evidence that the WEF Nexus approach brings added value in terms of sustainable development, and that it is generating emerging interest, or even demand, from a number of countries and institutions, the most crucial step to be taken currently is to analyze and debate the related conditions, bottlenecks, opportunities and ways forward through structured dialogues that lead to action plans, including the identification of investments and pilot demonstrations. In our analysis, we reviewed the economic, institutional and policy aspects of the implementation of the Nexus, particularly from a Water perspective, that could help promote the economic growth potential of the Mediterranean region.

  • Currently often underestimated, water pricing is an important economic issue that affects the implementation of the Nexus, especially with regard to the agricultural sector, which is the main water user.
  • Additional appropriate economic instruments (taxes, property rights, subsidies, etc.) can be selected as a toolbox that addresses various specific needs in the Mediterranean in order to promote allocation efficiency, the transfer of advanced technology and equity.
  • Regarding specific integrated methods for evaluating the economic effects of the WEF Nexus, in complement to the Cost Benefit Analysis, Cost Effectiveness with clearly defined objectives can be used as a tool to choose the optimal choices in the WEF Nexus.
  • Financing the WEF Nexus is another considerable component of economic growth. The public sector is the appropriate institutional body for providing a holistic orientation and long term perspective of the WEF Nexus, as well as for appropriating funds to support the initiation and establishment of a WEF Nexus approach.
  • Regarding the emergence of new employment opportunities, there is a need to accelerate the process of water management in that direction. Investment at R&D on Nexus approaches could also on its own induce a positive economic effect by creating more jobs while providing solutions.
  • Concerning the data issue, which should be a priority for policy-makers, a WEF Nexus based on a holistic economic and environmental perspective should use consistent, reliable and comprehensive data as well as sound scientific references.
  • Analyzing the institutional arrangements, partners could further support the establishment of a Nexus framework by sharing experiences, utilizing regional Institutions, promoting stakeholder involvement (including civil society), networking and strengthening trust and capacity building.
  • Organized dialogue is another keystone of the WEF Nexus framework. Added value can be generated only through partnerships between the public sector, the private sector, knowledge institutes, NGOs and regional stakeholders.

Published

July 2019

By

Frontiers in Environmental Science 7 (84)

© 2019 Markantonis, Reynaud, Karabulut, El Hajj, Altinbilek, Awad, Bruggeman, Constantianos, Mysiak, Lamaddalena, Matoussi, Monteiro, Pistocchi, Pretato, Tahboub, Tunçok, Ünver, Van Ek, Willaarts, Bülent, Zakir and Bidoglio.

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Markantonis, V., Arnaud, R., Karabulut, A., El Hajj, R., Altinbilek, D., Awad, I., ... & Matoussi, M. S. (2019). Can the implementation of the Water-Energy-Food Nexus support economic growth in the Mediterranean region? The current status and the way forward.

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