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Links between Climate Change, Land, Energy, and Water highlighted at IAEA-UN Event at COP23

Mark Howells from KTH Royal Institute of Technology speaks at the COP23 side event 'Energy Policy Trade-offs within the Broader Sustainable Development Challenge', Bonn, 10 November 2017. (Photo: D. Shropshire/IAEA)

With over 1 billion people lacking access to electricity, about 850 million living without access to safe water, and another 800 million undernourished, the world faces immense challenges, which are exacerbated by climate change. Integrated approaches and tools developed by the IAEA and other UN organizations can help, a UN panel stressed, on the sidelines of COP 23 in Bonn, Germany.

While ensuring access to reliable, clean and affordable energy is essential for sustainable development, linkages between climate change, energy, land and water resources can create conflicting demands, representatives of several United Nations (UN) agencies and other experts said at a side event to the Bonn Climate Change Conference (COP23) on Friday.

For instance, the production of food and energy are both highly dependent on the access to water and may compete for this resource, water supply and agriculture are major users of energy. Energy system and land-use change are the biggest emitters of GHGs. There is thus a high likelihood that pursuit of policy goals in one area could have impacts on other areas.

Among the tools developed by the IAEA and other UN organizations, the Climate, Land, Energy and Water (CLEW) methodology helps countries analyse complex interactions between these key resources, together with climate change. The methodology supports policy and planning for sustainable development.

“Resource delivery systems are interwoven. Yet demands are growing and made more volatile with changing climate,” said Mark Howells, Head of the Division of Energy Systems Analysis at the Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden. “Our response to this challenge must also be appropriately interconnected,” he urged.

Simon Langan, Director of the Water Future and Solutions Initiative at International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), emphasized: “There is an urgent need to develop and enhance capacity and partnerships in relation to understanding three underpinning elements of a sustainable society: food, energy and water security.”

Other initiatives to prompt an integrated approaches were mentioned, including the Global Framework for Climate Services led by the World Meteorological Organization. “It is a positive example on how the UN system joins forces to support capacity development in support of energy policies,” said Tobias Fuchs, Head of the Department of Climate and Environment Consultancy at Deutscher Wetterdienst firm in Germany.

The panel discussion on “Energy Policy Trade-Off within the Broader Sustainable Development Challenge” took place on 10 November and was co-organized by the IAEA, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).

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