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At UN Science, Technology and Innovation Forum, IAEA Presents Role of Nuclear in Reaching Sustainable Development Goals


Almost 200 diplomats attended a joint IAEA-FAO meeting with the African groups based in Vienna and Rome, held on 11 May 2023 at the IAEA Headquarters in Vienna. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

The IAEA presented its work on climate change adaptation and mitigation using nuclear techniques at the United Nations (UN) eighth annual Multi-Stakeholder Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for the Sustainable Development Goals (STI Forum), held on 3 to 4 May at the UN Headquarters in New York.

As a lead speaker during the STI Forum session on ‘Integrated solutions to make progress across Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 6, 7, and 9’, Jean-Pierre Cayol, Programme Coordinator, IAEA Department of Nuclear Sciences and Applications, highlighted the benefits of nuclear technology, international partnerships and interdisciplinary synergy in achieving the SDGs.

In his remarks, Cayol highlighted the IAEA’s support to more than 50 countries, which are using or considering using nuclear power, through technology transfer and capacity building. As a reliable source of energy that is clean in terms of carbon emissions, nuclear power is playing a role in countries’ progress toward multiple SDGs, including climate action. In recent years, the IAEA has worked together with international partners at the UN Climate Change Conference to show the valuable contribution of nuclear energy in tackling the climate crisis.

Together with the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the IAEA also supports countries in adapting to the negative effects of climate change, including water scarcity, food insecurity and extreme weather conditions. The IAEA takes a holistic climate-smart agriculture approach in assisting countries, for instance by developing hardier plants in addition to analysing water resources to improve crop yields.

“Agriculture uses around 70% of global freshwater. Integrated water resource management and inclusive water governance are critical points to transform our agrifood systems,” said Ismahane Elouafi, the Chief Scientist of FAO during the STI Forum session. She further added that the integrated management will increase incomes of farmers, while protecting our planet by reducing environmental footprints.

With 12 research and development laboratories, five of which are run by the Joint FAO/IAEA Centre of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture, and with a demand-driven technical cooperation programme, the IAEA works across a variety of areas to build national capacities and provide solutions to the effects of climate change. Topics addressed include climate-smart agriculture, land and water management, food production systems, ocean acidification and blue carbon. For example, it is supporting water resource management in 13 countries in the Sahel region, where drought conditions have been exacerbated by climate change. The study of groundwater using isotope hydrology has helped to improve the management of scarce water resources both for agriculture and human consumption.

“Nuclear techniques provide accurate data that is needed by decision makers to make fully and adequately informed decisions. Often, nuclear technologies are not standalone techniques, but are complementary to more traditional techniques,” Cayol said.

The IAEA supports and facilitates the sharing of valuable climate change data gathered using nuclear techniques. It works, for example, with partners such as the World Meteorological Organization to assist countries in identifying the source of greenhouse gas emissions through a technique known as ‘isotopic fingerprinting.’ It is also supporting the establishment of a new regional network of laboratories in Arab States that will monitor environmental pollutants, including greenhouse gas emissions. Harmonization of data practices across countries will provide a better picture of transboundary pollution and allow for potential regional solutions.

The STI Forum acts as a platform to gather valuable input on progress toward the SDGs ahead of the UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development that will take place 10-19 July 2023.

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