Policy recommendations for a resource-efficient and low-carbon Europe from the viewpoint of the nexus between water, land, energy, food and climate

13-04-2021 | Rapport

The European Green Deal is ambitious and arouses many conflicts of interest. One of the challenges is achieving coherence between policies for water, land, energy, food and climate (‘WLEFC nexus’). The Horizon 2020 project SIM4NEXUS, based on twelve case studies and modelling on global, European, national and regional scales, intends to facilitate the detailing and implementation of responses to this challenge.

Two strategies to increase coherence

To maximally exploit synergy in the WLEFC nexus, SIM4NEXUS recommends ‘Upstream thinking’, prioritising policies in the order of 1. Fundamentally change consumer’s behaviour, 2. Increase resource efficiency, and 3. Meet remaining demand with renewable natural resources and innovative production methods. Applying this strategy in the food sector, for example, includes a change to healthy and more plant-based diets and reducing food waste. There will be losers in this transition who need support, but also new opportunities that can be seized. Another strategy to increase coherence and efficiency in the WLEFC nexus is protecting and restoring ecosystem services and natural hydrological processes in the landscape. 

From strategy to implementation

Nexus-compliant policymaking and implementation require the political will to think across sectors, take a systemic view and put the long-term interest of a sustainable future above short-term profit. This view must be translated into legislation, investments, and financing. Policies for WLEFC nexus components could refer more to each other and have a more systemic view, pointing out linkages, synergy and trade-offs. Cross-sectoral bodies and regional and local hubs could facilitate the shift from a sectoral to a transversal logic in policy making. A multidisciplinary participative process with equal power relations between sectors, can raise awareness about shared benefits and common interests in the WLEFC nexus, and the value of system thinking.