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Nexus Blog // Water and Energy: A Partnership for the fight against Climate Change
Review of the COP26 session “Fueling Synergies through the Water-Energy Nexus - honouring Energy Day at the Water Pavilion”. How closely are the water and energy sectors interlinked and how do they together make a difference in the fight against climate change? Why is it essential to include the water-energy nexus into the ongoing climate negotiations? This article reflects on the COP26 session ‘Fueling synergies through the water-energy nexus – honouring Energy Day at the Water Pavilion’ which took place on November 3, 2021 and was organized by the Nexus Regional Dialogues programme, which is jointly funded by the European Union and BMZ. This event was livestreamed via Youtube, and later aired at the physical pavilion in Glasgow.
The Nexus Regional Dialogues programme mobilized its network of nexus leaders for a session at the Climate Conference COP26 on November 3, 2021 entitled ‘Fueling synergies through the Water-Energy Nexus – honouring Energy Day at the Water Pavilion’. This online event set the scene for Energy Day at the Blue Pavilion by exploring the interlinkages between water and energy and how these can contribute in the fight against climate change.
Cate Lamb, the Global Director of Water Security at Carbon Disclosure Project and UFCCC COP kicked-off the event by laying out the realities of the current energy and water uses, and the projected increase of water reliance on energy and energy reliance on water over the next decades. For example, the energy sector is set to become thirstier, with energy-related water consumption increasing by nearly 60% between 2014 and 2040. On the other hand, over the period to 2040, the amount of energy used in the water sector is projected to more than double. Lamb explored the dependency of these sectors to one another, and outlined existing potentials to enhance resource efficiency and recovery. Wastewater for example, contains significant amounts of embedded energy that, if harnessed, could cover more than half of the electricity needs of municipal wastewater utilities. A compelling point was made regarding the urgent need to take an integrated approach on the way to a clean energy transition and to increase energy and water security.
“The Water Energy Nexus is a beautiful, interdependent and complex dance between two critical resources. It is a story as old as time and yet it’s a story that, is yet, to have its ending defined.”
- Cate Lamb
Lamb was followed by Eng. Bashar Bataineh, Secretary General of the Water Authority of Jordan. He discussed the challenges that the water and energy sectors face in Jordan. On top of water already being a scarce resource in the region, climate change and the sudden population growth due to refugees was exacerbating this issue. An increase in electricity tariff is further straining the water security in Jordan, emphasizing the reliance of the water sector on the energy sector. For example, water resources – groundwater, surface water from dams or treated seawater – need to be pumped often from far distances to the cities of Jordan. To tackle these challenges, the Water Authority of Jordan now cooperates closely together with the Ministry of Energy and Power in form of a cross-sectoral steering committee and working groups feeding in joint projects in the national strategy. This presentation ended on a hopeful note, with a short overview of recent projects in Jordan exploring the feasibility of a more efficient working relationship between the water and energy sectors.
Following on, Beatrice Cyzia, Director General of Environment and Climate Change of the Ministry of Environment in Rwanda, provided an overview on the water-energy nexus in Rwanda. She emphasized that the water-energy nexus perspective was a vital part of the Nationally Determined Contribution, which sets out the nations commitment to reduce GHG emissions 38% by 2030.
Silvia Chavez Cereceda, Head of International Affairs Office, National Water Commission of Mexico (CONAGUA) then detailed the steps that Mexico is taking towards mitigating the effects of climate change by using holistic approaches towards water and energy. This included an international collaboration with water and wastewater companies for a climate mitigation program. Through the tool ECAM, greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption of wastewater treatment plants are assessed.
Claudia Ringler, Deputy Division Director and Senior Research Fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute, followed up by discussing how climate change is intensifying the linkages between water, energy and food security. “Climate change increases water scarcity which in turn increases energy intensity with impacts for climate change. A vicious cycle”. Ringler determined that we need to act on the many solutions that already exist, as well as develop new ones with strong incentives in order to address climate change. She further stressed, how the agricultural sector is going to be an important player in the energy transition and how decarbonizing that sector will have an impact on water and energy security.
“The Nexus can provide an opportunity to move faster and farther on many of the SDGs, especially SDG 6 and SDG 7 if we look at solutions and develop them jointly”
- Molly Walton
The final presentation was given by Michael Webber, Josey Centennial Professor in Energy Resources at the University of Texas. Webber highlighted a vital point emphasizing the evidence for the relationship between water and energy. “Texas had a water crisis, become a gas crisis, become a power crisis, become a water crisis… we have a lot of energy. And if energy abundant Texas can have an energy shortage, which causes a water problem … that’s a sign it can happen anywhere”. The close interlinkages between water and energy were made very evident in his speech, with concrete examples to showcase the effects that climate change is having on both these sectors, and beyond.
Molly Walton, Energy and Transport Manager at the "We Mean Business Coalition" accompanied the audience from start to finish as the session's moderator.
Walton wrapped up by discussing the takeaways of the speeches. The four points she emphasized were: low carbon does not necessarily mean low water; efficiency in managing these resources is key; the water sector can contribute to energy transitions; and the climate crisis primarily manifests itself through water. She brought the event to a close with a strong statement summarizing the key and united messages of all the speakers:
Holistic and integrated planning of the water and energy sectors is key to effectively addressing climate change. By failing to account for the water-energy nexus in climate related decisions, we are limited in our ability to address the climate crisis.
Watch the recorded session below:
- COP26 // Fueling Synergies through the Water-Energy Nexus - honouring Energy Day at the Water Pavilion
- COP26 // Water, climate, and borders - The role of River Basin Cooperation for Climate Resilience
- Conference // UN Climate Change Conference UK 2021
- Report // Water – Energy Nexus in Europe
- Energy Analysis // Energy-Water Nexus