Adaptation & Resilience
Climate Change
Co-Benefits
Development
Global Issues
Stacy D. VanDeveer, Raimund Bleischwitz and Catalina Spataru, New Secuirty Beat

The unabated growth of natural resource consumption raises risks that we will outstrip the capacities of ecosystems and governance institutions. At the same time, to achieve important global goals related to poverty alleviation, public health, equity and economic development such as those embodied in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we will simultaneously need more resources and better management of natural resources everywhere.

Achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals will require successful efforts to better integrate resource management across local, regional and global scales if greater ecological degradation, erosion of livelihoods and threats to security are to be avoided. Can resource governance be substantially improved across and between multiple types of resources, and become integrated with SDG implementation?

Resource Nexus

Debates about increasing and interconnected natural resource consumption, waste, and governance are often framed in terms of a “resource nexus.” We define the resource nexus as a set of context-specific critical interlinkages between two or more natural resources used in delivery chains in systems that provide water, energy, food, land, and materials. These dynamic chains involve complex social relations across scales and time, posing significant governance challenges. If “nexus” is to be more than an buzz word, as Nature suggested, approaches invoking the concept must add analytical clarity and apply to governance.

Past resource governance focused mostly on single resource categories such as water or energy in a supply chain running from primary natural resource, through processing and distribution to final consumption and disposal. The nexus concept is a response to this kind of siloed thinking. It emphasizes the importance of examining critical interlinkages across resources.

Our recent article in Nature Sustainability presents a five-node concept of the resource nexus and a set of analytical methods, modelling approaches, and scenarios for assessing system implications and capturing the dynamics for existing interlinkages and for future strategies, as well as building knowledge about these interdependencies. We argue that multi-scale, polycentric resource governance and assessment, in dialogue with various modelling efforts, can inform policy choices in the public, private, and civil society sectors.

Five Interlinked Resource Sets

A large and growing group of analysts and authors from around the world have been discussing nexus approaches since at least 2011. Our nexus approaches explore interlinkages between five resource sets: water, energy, food, materials, and land. Seeking improved assessment and governance of these links is critical if the SDGs on zero hunger (SDG 2), clean water and sanitation (SDG 6), affordable and clean energy (SDG 7), sustainable cities and communities (SDG 11), responsible consumption and production (SDG 12), climate action (SDG 13), and sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems (SDG 15) are to be achieved. For example, water resources are centrally important not only for SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation), where it is the explicit subject, but also for SDGs 2 (zero hunger), 7 (affordable and clean energy), 11 (sustainable cities and communities), and 12 (responsible consumption and production).

If water-focused actors, policies, and initiatives seek to achieve SDG 6 without reference to the water-related needs of other SDGs, they may miss opportunities and contradictions. And impediments to SDG achievement would likely to increase. The same holds true for land, food, materials, and energy if you enter inter-resource connections and SDG implementation planning via any one of these resource sets.

Main SDGs and the nexus. The main interlinkages between relevant SDGs and nexus categories. For instance, SDG 2 on zero hunger is relevant for land use, water use, materials (fertilizer) and food. Arrows indicate directions as input into other resources or mutual substitutions. [Figure from "Resource nexus perspectives towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals” in Nature Sustainability.]

Benefits of Focussing on Interlinkages

Systems thinking is foundational. Researchers and practitioners can start from a broad nexus understanding but may well focus on certain critical interlinkages. Assessment tools such as lifecycle analysis, value chain management, and scenario development and modelling approaches are available to reduce waste and increase efficiencies—sometimes through recapture and reuse—and establish critical resource thresholds to signal major risks of exceeding the capacities of ecosystems and governance institutions at various scales or within sectors. Such tools can potentially link various governance efforts to reduce the ecological and humanitarian costs of mining or agriculture, and simultaneously improve supply chain management and SDG implementation.

Integrated approaches could be better applied to address multiple targets and achieve greater sustainability across public and private sectors and at various levels of scale. And, in the process, such approaches could improve the decidedly uneven and incomplete resource-related monitoring, data gathering and analysis that currently exists across scales.

Modelling and scenario techniques are particularly good for exploring potential future implications for current choices and practices; and helping to identify and visualize demand, supply, and other governance challenges. The five-node nexus can be adapted to specific contexts and should help to focus on the most relevant resource interlinkages across layers. It can also help us further explore interlinkages with biosphere integrity and circular economy, which involves a vision of sustainable resource use that moves beyond the current take-make-dispose extractive industrial model and takes waste out of the equation.

In short, each SDG cannot be achieved in isolation and all SDGs have explicit or implicit resource-related demands and implications. In a world of scarce resources of all kinds—including time—we must prioritize assessment, planning, and governance initiatives that simultaneously maximize and integrate much more sustainable resource management and SDG implementation.

 

[This arcitle originally appeared on newsecuritybeat.org.]


Climate Change
Security
Oceania & Pacific
Delia Paul, IISD

At the conclusion of the 50th Pacific Islands Forum, Pacific leaders issued a Forum Communiqué and the ‘Kainaki II Declaration for Urgent Climate Change Action Now’ – the strongest collective statement the Forum has issued on climate change. Pacific leaders highlight the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit, the SAMOA Pathway Review, and 25th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 25) to the UNFCCC as “global turning points to ensure meaningful, measurable and effective climate change action”.

Climate Diplomacy
Private Sector
South America
Central America & Caribbean
Adriana Erthal Abdenur, Igarapé Institute

If ratified, the Mercosur-EU trade deal may reinforce the parties’ commitment to climate action. Yet, its potential relevance is weakened by a language that often stops short of concrete commitments, as well as by political resistance.

Climate Change
Water
Middle East & North Africa
Theodore Karasik and Jacopo Spezia Depretto, Fair Observer

Iraq is on the verge of an environmental breakdown, and climate change is not helping. The country's fragile environment and the increasing scarcity of natural resources — particularly water — are a result of poor environmental management, as well as several political and historical factors. However, as climate change impacts add to the existing pressures, the environmental collapse turns into a security issue.

Climate Change
Land & Food
Global Issues
Robert McSweeney, Carbon Brief

The severity of desertification and its mutual relationship with climate change cannot be overstated. In light of the recent launch of the Special Report on Climate Change and Land by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Robert McSweeney from Carbon Brief explains what desertification is, what role climate change plays, and what impact it has across the world.