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Business Leaders Call for Linking Water, Energy and Climate in Global Talks

Water
Log scale plot of illustrative water consumption by energy-related activity. In the examples cited in the report, biomass for biofuels has the largest and widest ranging footprint: from 24,000 m3 per 1,000 GJ in the Netherlands to 143,000 m3 per 1,000 GJ in Zimbabwe. Data: WBCSD (2009). Click to enlarge.

Business leaders from some of the world’s biggest companies called for water, energy and climate change issues to be linked in global negotiations, such as the international climate talks due to culminate in Copenhagen in December.

The business leaders were speaking at the launch of a report by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) at the 5th World Water Forum in Istanbul. The report, Water, Energy and Climate Change: A contribution from the business community says water, energy and climate change are inextricably linked. The World Water Forum is expected to produce a ministerial statement calling for proactive policies on water issues.

Water is everybody’s business. It is used to generate energy, and energy is used to provide water. Climate change will affect the use and availability of both. It is important that we get the policies right. The World Water Forum in Istanbul has done a lot to focus attention on water, energy and climate change. But there is still a significant gap in addressing all three together at a global level. We must link them in the climate negotiations to have any real hope of finding a solution.

—Björn Stigson, president of the WBCSD

The paper outlines a number of key rationales for linking water, energy and climate change issues, including:

  • Water and energy are inextricably linked. Both are essential to every aspect of life. Water is used to generate energy; energy is used to provide water. Both water and energy are used to produce crops; crops can in turn be used to generate energy through biofuels.

    As one example, estimates of energy requirements for pumping freshwater range from 540 kWh per million gallons from a depth of 35 meters (equivalent to 0.51 GJ per 1,000 m3 of pumped water), to 2,000 kWh per million gallons from 120 meters (equivalent to about 2 GJ per 1,000 m3 of pumped water. These energy needs will increase in the areas where groundwater levels are decreasing.

  • Global energy and water demand are increasing. In an increasing spiral, demand for more energy will drive demand for more water; demand for more water will drive demand for more energy.

  • Both water use and energy use impact and depend on ecosystems. Industrial, agricultural and domestic water and energy uses can have adverse impacts on ecosystems, including loss of habitat, pollution and changes in biological processes (such as fish spawning). Such ecosystem impacts also affect the amount of water or energy supplies available. Water, energy and ecological footprints cannot be addressed in isolation.

  • Climate change will affect availability and use of both water and energy. Climate change acts as an amplifier of the already intense competition over water and energy resources. Impacts from climate change on both regional and global hydrological systems will increase, bringing higher levels of uncertainty and risk, with some regions more impacted than others. Climate change mitigation and adaptation need to be considered together.

Resolving growing issues surrounding water and energy priorities will require better and integrated policy frameworks and political engagement to address them satisfactorily for all stakeholders within and across watersheds, according to the report.

The paper lists five important policy recommendations from business to climate negotiators and policy-makers:

  • Provide reliable climate change risk data, models and analysis tools.

  • Integrate water and energy efficiency in measurement tools and policy.

  • Bring water issues into the mainstream, and ensure that water authorities and institutions have staff trained to deliver common management practices, education and awareness raising.

  • Integrate and value ecosystem services (the benefits that nature provides to society, such as water and forest products) into cross-border decision-making.

  • Encourage best practice through innovation, appropriate solutions and community engagement. It also includes 25 case studies showing how business is already linking water, energy and climate across their operations.

The WBCSD has updated its Global Water Tool with more recent water datasets, due to its successful uptake since its launch in August 2007. The Global Water Tool is a free tool enabling companies and organizations to map their water use and assess risks relative to their global operations and supply chains. The tool, which was developed by CH2M HILL and an advisory board of 22 WBCSD member companies, aims to help corporations better manage their water use.

The WBCSD’s Water Project brings together more than 60 companies from mining and metals, oil and gas, consumer products, food and beverages, infrastructure services and equipment sectors. The broad representation reflects the knowledge that all businesses will face water challenges in the years ahead.

Resources

Comments

SJC

Water is such a huge issue in agriculture, it can not be avoided. 85% of the water in California is used for agriculture, where most of the fruits and vegetables for the nation are grown. If we are to use the agricultural biomass cellulose for fuel, we need to have secure water resources.

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