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OPPORTUNITY: CDKN invites research on the water, energy and food security nexus

Water, energy and food security are critical for achieving climate compatible development. All are essential to sustain life and most people living in poverty have inadequate access to them. The demand for water, energy and food is growing globally, and they are becoming increasingly scarce to varying degrees in different parts of the world.

Water, energy and food all depend on the natural environment and the direct impacts of climate change on human development can be clearly seen in these three sectors. The water, energy and food sectors are also interdependent. The effects of climate change felt in one of these sectors have consequences for resources and opportunities in the other two.

In recent years the ‘water, energy and food nexus’ has become a key concept for understanding the complexities in these interdependent systems. The concept of a water, energy and food security nexus enables a more coherent or integrated approach to the management of the natural resources that are vital for human development, and can assist in the identification of synergies and trade-offs in the pursuit of climate compatible development objectives.

In addition to recognising the ecological interdependence of water, energy and food systems, the water, energy and food security nexus concept highlights that policy objectives in one sector (water, energy or food) can interact with those in other sectors. Policy objectives in one sector may be preconditions for the realisation of another sector’s objectives, or they can impose conditions or constraints on what can be achieved in the other sectors. In other words, some policy objectives have synergies across sectors, while others require trade-offs.

Application of the water, energy and food nexus concept has improved understanding of the complex relationships between water, energy and food and of consequences of change in one sector for change in one or both of the other sectors. But the implications for policy have been less well explored. Policy formulation and implementation tends to be through sector- and geographically-specific policies and institutions. However, integration of policies and their implementation across the water, energy and food sectors, exploiting the synergies and managing the trade-offs, could contribute more to achieving climate compatible development

How such an integrated approach might be achieved raises a number of questions concerned with policy coherence between sectors and institutions, processes of policy development and planning, political economy, and organisational capacities. What kinds of forums, institutions and mechanisms, at different levels of government, are effective in exploiting synergies and mediating trade-offs in policy formulation, planning and implementation between the water, energy and food sectors? What are the barriers to cross-sectoral coordination? What are the governance and institutional challenges to coordination at different levels and different stages of policy formulation and implementation? How do political economy factors affect the coordination and integrated approaches across sectors?

CDKN is commissioning new research on these issues, with a view to generating evidence-based thought leadership and policy impact for climate compatible development. See this page on the Climate Compatible Development Impact Research Fund for more details.


Image credit CIFOR.

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