Water, energy and food: Each sector is marked by existing or future scarcities and will be faced with great challenges in the coming decades and shed light on planetary boundaries. These trends were at the heart of an international conference organized by the German government in mid-November in Bonn that was the first global conference to discuss this nexus between water, energy and food security. The conference’s recommendations will serve as one of the major contributions to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20. In his keynote speech, the Prince of Orange, Chair of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Sanitation, underlined that each sector is also more likely to be viewed as a security issue.
In the course of the conference, a broad range of stakeholders further explored how to address these security dimensions by discussing the interlinkages and trade-offs across the three sectors of water, energy and food security. As one of the greatest challenges discussed was the trade-off between food and energy, the biggest question as whether biofuels should be promoted further or not. For example, at the plenary, Joachim von Braun, Director of the Center for Development Research at Bonn University, explained why anything that uses land and water is a competition to food. Hence, singling out some crops for biofuels “will not do the trick”. Generally, making decisions based on thinking in “CO2-silos” was viewed as a shortsighted effort.
As a follow-up, the Parliamentary State Secretary at the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), Gudrun Kopp, announced that the BMZ had launched the “International Water Stewardship Initiative” in collaboration with WWF and SAB Miller, one of the world’s largest brewery groups. The initiative is supposed to jump-start innovative partnerships between business, society and government working together to improve land and water management in developing countries. More initiatives are to be expected at Rio+20, a “conference on how to organize the global economy within planetary boundaries for nine billion people”, according to Dirk Messner, Vice Chair of the German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU). At Rio+20 the highest priority should be given to the “bottom billion” that live with scarcity of water, energy, food and other resources. Those people do not have to think about the nexus – they live it every day. (Janina Barkemeyer)
For further information on the conference, please see http://www.water-energy-food.org/
Published in: ECC-Newsletter, 6/2011