Integrated approaches to water and energy can be a climate solution, experts say
Just as climate change is affecting the implementation of all of the Sustainable Development Goals, the solutions to this global challenge will have to come from all stakeholders, including water and energy providers, said experts at a United Nations General Assembly side event focused on integrating the approaches to these sectors.
The event “Strengthening integrated responses to water and energy as a strategy for climate change action,” was held on 26 September by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, together with Itaipu Binacional and the support of the Government of Spain, at the Cervantes Institute in New York. It served as an opportunity to present the growing Sustainable Water and Energy Solutions Network currently under development.
“Water is the thread that links all of our lives,” said Juwang Zhu, Director of DESA’s Division for SDGs, sharing the support of Under-Secretary-General Liu Zhenmin. “If we can strengthen the water-energy nexus, we will be better placed to achieve all of the SDGs.”
For instance, the role of water and energy in agriculture and maintaining a sustainable food supply was highlighted by several speakers on the two panel discussions, including Cristina Gallach, High Commissioner for the 2030 Agenda for Spain.
She cited Spain’s involvement in intergovernmental water groups for Latin America and the Mediterranean regions as an important way to discuss the interlinkages between water, energy and climate change and share best practices to “minimize our consumption of energy and move to new systems to create more efficient food delivery processes.”
Ariel Scheffer da Silva, Head of Environmental Management at Itaipu Binacional, which runs the massive hydropower plant on the border of Paraguay and Brazil, brought up the fact that the company’s work towards SDGs 6 and 7 has had a positive effect on the rest of the 2030 Agenda, particularly SDG 3 about health and SDG 15 on biodiversity.
To add, José Antonio Marcondes de Carvalho, Under-Secretary-General for Environment, Energy, Science and Technology for Brazil, said Itaipu’s clean energy has helped Brazil get to an energy mix of nearly 80 percent renewable, while protecting forests around the dam and improving the health and climate resilience of nearby indigenous communities.
Gugile Nkwinti, Minister of Water and Sanitation for the Republic of South Africa, emphasized the importance of taking leadership and implementing solutions on the ground by providing a concrete case study of a private sector-funded eco-village in his country where wastewater treatment is done through solar energy, significantly reducing basic cost of living expenses and helping lift people out of poverty.
An integrated approach to water and energy is also helping small farmers, said Arianna Giuliodori, Secretary General of the World Farmers’ Organisation. She pointed to the example of mango farmers in Zambia who are able to grow, dry, store and export their product internationally thanks to thoughtful investment in solar energy and sustainable watering efforts.
Other speakers calling for integrated approaches on water and energy included High-Level representatives from the Government of Spain, the World Energy Council and the Azucareros “Sugar Makers” Association. Other UN agencies, governments and civil society added comments as well.