Messages from Bonn 2011: Water, Energy and Food Security Nexus

10 February 2012 | News story

How will the planet cope with two more billion people in an increasingly urbanized and wealthy world? Can there be solutions to dealing with the significant additional pressure on energy, water and food demands, whilst avoiding further ecosystem degradation?

The Bonn 2011 Conference provided a first platform for consideration of the close interlinkages between water, energy and food security, and the benefits of a nexus or linked perspective to bring different viewpoints and stakeholders together.

If we continue on the path of business as usual, in less than two decades there will be 40% less freshwater resources available globally to ensure water, energy, and food security for all. A transformation of our current approaches to managing water is necessary and new opportunities must be identified if we are going to be able to provide enough water, food and energy for all.

This is where the water, energy and food security nexus comes in. The nexus perspective increases the understanding of the interdependencies between water, energy, food and other policies such as climate and biodiversity. It helps to move beyond silos that preclude interdisciplinary solutions. It opens the way for mutually beneficial responses and the potential of cooperation between disciplines and skills.

Mark Smith, Director of the IUCN Global Water Programme, presented the paper 'Putting Nature in the Nexus: Investing in Natural Infrastructure to Advance Water-Energy-Food Security'. The paper focused on the role of natural infrastructure, as as a critical pillar within this nexus of water-energy-food security.

Understanding that nature can serve as infrastructure opens the way to including the management and restoration of ecosystems in planning and investment  for the water-food-energy nexus. Investment decisions can then be based on the full picture of options available, for meeting requirements for storing, moving, cleaning and buffering flows of water, and making food and energy production more reliable. Options that combine built and natural infrastructure may be more cost-effective in terms of benefits received, risk and outcomes for sustainable development.

Amongst the five messages from Bonn, valuing Natural Infrastructure was a key message taken up by the Bonn 2011 Nexus Conference and incorporated into the action points for achieving water, energy and food security. The messages have been compiled into a document The Water, Energy, and Food Security Nexus - Solutions for a Green Economy,  and sent to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Outcomes of the Rio+20 Summit in June 2012 should take into account and address the interdependencies between water, energy and food and act upon the challenge to make the nexus work for the poor and for all. The nexus approach is at the heart of the overall challenge of transforming our economies to green economies by changing growth patterns to become more sustainable.

For more information, please contact water@iucn.org