event 04 Sep 2018

Water-Land-Energy-Food-Climate Nexus // Policies and Policy Coherence at European and International Scale

By Stefania Munaretto and Maria Witmer. More synergies than conflicts exist between European policy objectives for water, land, energy, food and climate. There are numerous positively interacting policy objectives, providing opportunities for synergy. However, some policy objectives conflict with most other objectives. Progress in achieving these objectives comes at the expense of others.

Christian wiediger 735834 unsplash
https://unsplash.com/photos/ueLA4x2gZf8 (C) Christian Wiediger / Unsplash

EU policy objectives that refer to the sustainable use of resources, provision of ecosystem services and climate change resilience are generally coherent on paper. However, problems may start to manifest when specific objectives and measures are articulated and implemented.

The objectives ‘Increase biofuel production’, ‘Increase hydro‐energy production’, ‘Improve competitiveness of agricultural sector’ and ‘Support the development and uptake of safe CCS technology’ conflict with most other EU policy objectives in the WLEFC nexus. These conflicts are only partly addressed in the current and proposed EU policies. For example, according to the proposed EU policies on renewable energy, the European Commission will monitor effects of biofuel production on food prices and food security, but no concrete measures are mentioned in the event that effects actually occur.

Effects of biofuel production on water quantity and quality outside the EU are only addressed by voluntary reporting schemes. In contrast, effects on land use are addressed in detail. The objective ‘Fully consider water and ecosystem footprints of alternative climate change mitigation measures’ in the UNEP Operational strategy for fresh water 2012–2016, has not been incorporated in EU energy and climate policies, nor in UN climate policies. The next step of the policy analysis focuses on the implementation of policies related to the WLEFC nexus in 10 case studies at national and regional scales.


PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency website


May 2017


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