Nexus 2014: Water, Food, Climate and Energy Conference

Chapel Hill, United States

5-8 March, 2014

The Water Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and collaborators hosted the "Nexus 2014: Water, Food, Climate and Energy Conference" on March 5-8, 2014 to examine the thoughts and actions related to a nexus approach. One of the primary goals of this conference was to provide input to the UN Sustainable Development Goals process. To do so a group of experts prepared a draft of the Nexus Declaration which was delivered to the UN Secretary General on March 26.

The role of ecosystems in optimizing water, energy and food infrastructure

Side Event, 5 March 2014

The ecosystem services provided by natural infrastructure underpin water, energy and food security. The services provided by forests, wetlands and floodplains support and complement engineered water, energy and food infrastructure. Investing in integrated management strategies that combine natural infrastructure with engineered solutions can reduce costs, enhance services and provide a range of multiple-benefits across the water, energy food security ‘Nexus’ for communities and the environment. Ecosystem management and restoration should be an integral part of the planning for infrastructure in the Nexus.

Convened by IUCN, IWA and UNEP, the side event "The role of ecosystems in optimizing water, energy and food infrastructure" sought to explain natural infrastructure as a concept to show how ecosystems underpin/bind the nexus through the services they provide, but are missing from many dialogues and investments. The state of national development sets countries at different positions in the nexus. Better understanding and taking adequate account of ecosystems, positioning them more centrally in the investment process can help countries maximise their economic transitions.

This event aimed to demonstrate the essential role of ecosystems in supporting water, energy and food infrastructure development in the Nexus. Presentations and discussion put focus on answering the following questions within three key themes:

  • Integrating built and natural infrastructure solutions
    • Will it work?
    • Can it be implemented at the scale needed?
  • Overcoming institutional and sectoral silos
    • What policies are needed to support investment in natural infrastructure as an integral part of water infrastructure (e.g., incorporating the value of ecosystem services when making decisions about water infrastructure investments)?
    • What tools exist or can be further developed to invest in natural infrastructure at the watershed level (e.g., payments for ecosystem services)?
  • Infrastructure optimization
    • What needs to be done to make it happen?
    • Are there places where this is happening?

 

'The role of ecosystems in optimizing water, energy and food infrastructure'

Nexus Dialogue workshop

Conveners: International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), International Water Association (IWA) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

The ecosystem services provided by natural infrastructure underpin water, energy and food security. The services provided by forests, wetlands and floodplains support and complement engineered water, energy and food infrastructure. Without healthy ecosystems in well-functioning watersheds, the infrastructure built for irrigation, hydropower or municipal water supply does not function sustainably and is unlikely to achieve the economic returns necessary to justify investments. Ecosystem management and restoration should be an integral part of the planning for infrastructure in the Nexus.

Presentations:
1. Bringing ecosystems to the forefront of the Nexus discussions – Carla Friedrich, UNEP Regional Office for North America
2. Why ecosystems underpin infrastructure in the nexus – Damian Crilly, Environment Agency, UK/ Nexus Dialogue, IWA
3. Making the Business Case for the Natural Infrastructure Approach for Water Todd Gartner, World Resources Institute
4. A Brief Overview of Green Infrastructure Research and Activities of EPA – James Wickham, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
5. Mutual Benefit - Natural and Grey Infrastructure – Jeffrey Cowan, The Nature Conservancy
6. Natural Infrastructure Investments and the Nexus: A Global Overview – Genevieve Bennett, Forest Trends 
7. How to Leverage Private Sector Support for Green Infrastructure – Stuart Orr, WWF International Switzerland
8. Combined approaches to integrate natural and built infrastructure –  Matthew Marko, CH2M HILL Water Business Group