The Energy-Water Nexus Outcome @COP23
COP23 raised thoughtful and innovative discussions surrounding the many issues of the energy-water nexus. While there were few large decisions or policies made addressing energy and water, there were several important outcomes that will be key in reaching the goals set for these resources and responding to related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
- Nature-Based Solutions for Water–
SDG 6 relates to water being more of a local issue but stresses that the consequences how water is managed have global impact The need for an equally global solution was emphasized by the launch of a plan that will integrate nature-based solutions into water management strategies worldwide:
- Thirty-three water alliances present at COP23 signed onto the International Declaration: Nature-Based Solutions for Water Management Under Climate Change, a plan that will work to “encourage the use of natural systems in managing healthy water supplies.”
The declaration defines nature-based solutions as “actions to protect, sustainably manage, and restore natural or modified ecosystems that address societal challenges effectively and adaptively, simultaneously providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits.”
- Water Financing–
SDG 6 addresses water and sanitation, prioritized in many countries’ climate action plans submitted under the Paris Agreement. However, water agencies at COP23 estimated that $295 billion (USD) would be needed for countries to fully develop water management strategies and take action as part of adaptation to climate change—a number that is three times the levels of investment prior to COP23.
In other progress, Fiji received the largest European Investment Bank grant for water management ever received by a small island state:
- The EIB pledged $75 million (USD) toward a $405 million Fiji investment program to strengthen resilience of water distribution and wastewater treatment following Cyclone Winston.
While there was not much progress toward acquiring finance on this large scale, there was a call “for the sustainable use of water to be at the center of building resilient cities and human settlements and ensuring food security in a climate change context.” – Mariet Verhoef-Cohen, President, Women for Water Partnership
- Energy Financing-
SDG 7 addresses the use of affordable renewable and clean energy, which is continuing to grow with investments in renewables outweighing investments in fossil fuels, especially in developing countries. Finance is a major force to accelerate the global energy transition:
- The International Energy Agency launched the Clean Energy Transitions Program, a multi-year $30 million (EUR) plan that was backed by 13 countries at COP 23 to support clean energy transitions around the world.
It will “provide cutting-edge technical support to governments whose energy policies will significantly impact the speed of a global transition toward more sustainable energy production and use, including reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and greater access to energy.” -IEA
Many other outcomes that emerged from COP23 relate to or are reliant on proper management of energy and water resources. One such event was the launch of the global Powering Past Coal Alliance—formed to declare a phase-out of coal—led by the UK and Canada, and joined by more than 20 countries and other groups. Unfortunately, emissions rose this year after holding steady for three years, due to increased use of fossil fuels.
“Ending, or at least sharply reducing, the use of coal continues to be a major objective for many NGOs, and many governments as well.” -SDG 7
As agriculture is closely tied to the energy-water nexus, another noteworthy outcome was the parties’ agreement to address issues of agriculture and climate change, which marked the “end of a deadlock on agriculture which had lasted for years.”
- Leaders agreed that investing more in agricultural climate action and supporting sustainable livelihoods of small-scale farmers will unlock much greater potential to limit emissions and protect people against climate change.
- The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) released a new Sourcebook on Climate-Smart Agriculture with guidelines to scale up public and private climate financing for agriculture, encourage partnerships, and build capacity.
“Countries now have the opportunity to transform their agricultural sectors to achieve food security for all through sustainable agriculture and strategies that boost resource-use efficiency, conserve and restore biodiversity and natural resources, and combat the impacts of climate change.” -René Castro, Assistant-Director General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
Overall, COP23 was quite focused on setting the stage for COP24, which will hopefully see adoption of the Paris Rulebook. Great strides were achieved for the issues of the energy-water nexus and how they relate to climate change. Not only were these issues brought up more frequently in discussions across the COP, but also steps are being taken to integrate concepts and promote collaboration on these issues across many organizations, countries, and disciplines.