News & Media
News and Media
More than 600 experts and decision-makers from over 100 countries are meeting at the Bonn2011 Conference: The Water, Energy and Food Security Nexus – Solutions for the Green Economy, hosted by the German government. The Stockholm Environment Institute compiled the evidence base for the event, and presents it today at the conference plenary.
The conference, which runs from today until Friday, aims to influence how world leaders approach some of the greatest challenges of our time: feeding the world’s seven billion people, producing low-carbon energy, and allocating ever-scarcer water in a changing climate.
The starting point for the conference is the scientific background paper, Understanding the Nexus, produced by the Stockholm Environment Institute with significant contributions from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), WWF and others.
The paper warns that unless there are “significant changes to the ways that we produce and consume”, agricultural production will have to increase by about 70 per cent by 2050, and 50 per cent more primary energy will need to be made available by 2035. Such increases would have “far-reaching implications” for water and land resources, the authors warn, and climate change is likely to aggravate pressure on resources and thus add to the vulnerability of people and ecosystems, particularly in water-scarce and marginal regions.
“The background paper presents initial evidence for how a nexus approach can enhance water, energy and food security and help to build a green economy by addressing interactions across sectors,” says Holger Hoff, main author and a senior researcher at SEI. “It also highlights opportunities to increase efficiency, reduce wastage and alleviate poverty, and benefit from productive ecosystems.”
The authors note that there is great potential to increase overall resource use efficiency. In 2010, for example, the United States used 35 per cent of its total corn crop for biofuel – a very resource-intensive way to produce energy. A nexus approach can lead to smarter renewable-energy development, Hoff says, avoiding direct competition with food production and other water uses.
Several case studies illustrate trade-offs, challenges and opportunities, and the authors suggest changes in consumption as well as production. Reducing the meat content of diets could also make a significant impact, say the authors, and energy use in wealthy countries is very high, about 5300 kg of oil equivalent of energy per capita per year, compared with 420 kg per capita in low-income countries.
“Given that a crisis can actually stimulate positive change, climate change could encourage better management that integrates climate adaptation with investments in ecosystem services, which are essential to generate water, food and energy security,” says Johan Kuylenstierna, co-author of the paper and director of SEI’s Stockholm Centre. “This would truly be a more green economy.”
Along with Hoff and Kuylenstierna, three other SEI experts are speaking at the conference: executive director Johan Rockström (a keynote speaker); research director Måns Nilsson; and senior researcher Arno Rosemarin.
The Nexus Conference, organised by the German government, brings together more than 600 high-ranking decision-makers and decision-shapers from the spheres of politics and government, science and academia, civil society and the private sector, and the United Nations. By initiating efforts to put the nexus perspective firmly on the international agenda, the German government aims to inject fresh impetus into preparations for Rio+20, the upcoming UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012.
For more information:
Read Understanding the Nexus, the background paper by SEI»
Read more about SEI's work on the Water-Land-Energy Nexus»
Background material, including press backgrounders»
Read more about the conference»