Nexus Nirvana or Nexus Nullity? A dynamic approach to security and sustainability in the water-energy-food nexus

Nexus Nirvana or Nexus Nullity? A dynamic approach to security and sustainability in the water-energy-food nexus

STEPS Centre working paper proposing a dynamic approach to security and sustainability in the water-energy-food nexus.

In the wake of various global crisis in energy, food, and finance since 2008, together with growing concerns and uncertainties surrounding climate change, many in the development field are urging a more integrated approach between key sectors. The concept of a water-energy-food nexus has emerged from a range of proponents, each supplying their own perspectives and agendas. The goal of this paper is to develop the conceptual tools required for a project that ultimately aims to contribute to unpacking existing formulations of the water-energy-food nexus, and rethinking some of its key tenets.

The paper is divided into five sections. First, the authors unpack the crisis context which led to the formulation of the nexus, before discussing the nexus itself. Next, the paper examines the extent to which the nexus is promoting static solutions guided by stability and durability thinking. Fourth, it promotes a conceptual framework synthesising dynamic sustainability, plural water storage systems, and the nexus, before finally mapping the direction of the proposed project on water storage solutions in the context of the nexus in South and South-East Asia.

The paper argues that the current global policy framing of the nexus around a scarcity crisis narrative is driving proposed solutions toward a paradigm of control, one that conceives a higher perception of certainty than is actually warranted; for example, creating large man-made structures in the belief that they are more secure and sustainable. In reality, the nexus is by nature a vastly complex and dynamic system - particularly under climate change - and so requires a shift in governance that better acknowledges and incorporates the limits to our control.

The key proposal is for a pluralistic approach to water storage that accommodates a variety of small- and large-scale solutions. This approach would be appropriate given the uncertainties at play, and are more consistent with resilience and robustness. A pluralistic approach would also allow for a reframing of boundaries of potential solutions, and where win-wins exist, could also address food demands and clean energy whilst ensuring social-justice prevails.

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    • Type: 1428: HTML text
    • Theme: 21: Agriculture and food
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    • Theme: 487: Gender
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