IUCN addresses food, water and energy security at UN meeting

IUCN Director General, Julia Marton-Lefèvre, chaired a high-level discussion on food, water and energy security during the recent meeting of the UN Secretary General’s High Level Group on Sustainable Energy for All. She championed the theme that energy, water and food security rely on ecosystem services and in order to safeguard them, we must invest in nature’s supporting role.

Woman with baby at local water well, Zambia.

Linked to the 2012 International Year of Sustainable Energy, IUCN has been invited as part of the initiative that brings together leaders from business, government and civil society to help achieve three major targets by 2030: to achieve universal access to modern energy services; to improve energy efficiency by 40%; and to produce 30% of the world’s energy from renewable energy. The first meeting of the High Level Group was held during the UN Private Sector Forum and led to the creation of a ‘Framework for Business Action on Sustainable Energy.’

“The demand for energy, food and water is set to rise in the coming years,” says Marton-Lefèvre, “Current trends predict that energy needs will be up 50% by 2030, the need for food will rise 70% by 2050 and there will be a 40% increase in the gap between water supply and demand. If we do not address this nexus proactively, there will be no transition to a more sustainable, equitable society.”

IUCN encourages governments and the private sector to recognize the role of natural infrastructure in supporting multiple goals of food, water and energy security. For example, natural and built infrastructures that are mutually supportive, such as wetlands which store water that flows downstream for irrigation. In the Ruhuna (Sri Lanka) basins, water diverted for energy generation now returns to the river downstream for agricultural systems.

Along with natural infrastructure, supporting the development of appropriate economic tools, incentives and policies, including Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES), to fully account for the benefits of ecosystems, is also key said Marton-Lefèvre.

“Innovative solutions involving all sector stakeholders is needed to find the optimal balance of investments in both natural and built infrastructure”, says Marton-Lefèvre. “Given the right policy frameworks, investments made in building resilience through natural infrastructure are part of the solution to support multiple development goals of food, water and energy security.”

According to Marton-Lefèvre, the environmental community can and should collaborate with the renewable energy industry. Together both can effectively manage the environmental and social impacts of energy options to help understand, avoid and manage risks. Both parties must ensure that renewable energy is developed in the right places, meaning not just technically and financially, but also environmentally and socially.

Currently, 2.5 billion people do not have access to sanitation and 1 billion people lack access to safe drinking water; 1 billion people suffer from hunger and 2 billion suffer from malnutrition; and 2.5 billion people do not have access to modern forms of energy.

For more information contact: Nadine McCormick, IUCN Energy Network Coordinator:

Work area: 
Global Policy
Protected Areas
Social Policy
South America
North America
East and Southern Africa
West and Central Africa
West Asia
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