The nexus approach, looking at how and where food, water and energy systems intersect, was the focus of the 16th National Conference and Global Forum on Science, Policy and the Environment (NCSE), which was held in Washington DC from January 19-21.
It’s also a way of thinking that resonates with the Global Environment Facility (GEF).
Moving away from a narrow focus to broad approaches that integrate several areas of work is at the core of the GEF business model, with 50% of its projects multifocal by nature, drawing funds from Climate Change, International Waters, Biodiversity, and other areas of work.
Addressing the Washington conference, Astrid Hillers, Sr. Environment Officer and Program Manager, GEF, said "Key Earth support systems are near or beyond their tipping points. Many of the most critical planetary boundaries relate to water and nexus dimensions. That’s why the GEF is increasingly trying to address environmental challenges in an integrated, holistic manner.”
As populations grow, together with urbanization and the growth of the middle class, the need for water, food and energy accelerate. Yet, water supplies generally remain the same.
“We have the same amount of water on the planet now as when the dinosaurs roamed,” Hillers continued. “And as the quality of life continues to improve for people around the globe, our water demands increase. Since 1950, global water use has nearly tripled."
Cooperation on water is no longer a choice, it is an imperative for stable, regional, and inclusive work of all institutions at the regional and national level. An integrated, cross-sectoral approach is required to safeguard water availability and enhance water productivity, water quality, and management and delivery of water and ecosystem services in the long term, providing direct synergies with food energy security and ecosystem stability.
Also speaking at the NCSE event, Nebojsa Nakicenovic, Deputy Director General and Deputy Chief Executive Officer of IIASA, highlighted how integrating planning is critical across water, food and energy for ecosystems security. He stressed that single-sector approaches will no longer achieve a sustainable pathway in the future.
"The adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals and the success of COP21 have given a huge impetus to initiate a grand transformation on our planet,” said Nakicenovic. “In order to make progress towards a sustainable future, we need to break down disciplinary silos in research to understand these connections.”
For the GEF, transboundary water cooperation is an area where progress can be made with the Nexus approach.