2030 SDGs

UNEP-DHI and UNEP-CCC collaborate on new Water-Energy-Food-Ecosystem (WEFE) nexus policy note

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In February 2024, the UNEP-DHI Centre for Water and Environment and the UNEP-Copenhagen Climate Centre (UNEP-CCC) published a policy note on “Working with the Water-Energy-Food-Ecosystems (WEFE) nexus”. It provides a summary and perspectives for using the inter-relationship between water, energy generation, food production and ecosystems conservation to achieve climate-resilient sustainable development. 

What is the WEFE Nexus? 

The WEFE nexus is a particularly important approach, as it encourages system thinking and bridges the gap between challenges linked to water, agriculture, energy and biodiversity, which are often acted upon in a siloed way. 

 As climate change is becoming more and more prominent, all four constituents of the WEFE nexus are affected by increasingly severe extreme events, as well as through more subtle changes to the hydrological cycle. Their vulnerability to climate impacts can lead to cascading effects, affecting people and ecosystems across boundaries. Implementing the WEFE nexus involves taking a systems approach to assess the efficiencies, synergies and trade-offs within the local context. The nexus provides a practical framework to implement integrated water resources management (IWRM). At the same time, proven IWRM approaches – such as using hydrological boundaries, cross-sector coordination, and multi-stakeholder consultation – can be used to guide WEFE nexus implementation.  Improving coherence across water, energy and food production policy, planning, and action, while including climate change and the well-being of ecosystems is necessary to accelerate sustainable, resilient and equitable socio-economic development. 

UNEP-DHI and UNEP-CCC can support implementation of the WEFE nexus through their expertise and tools on climate resilience and integrated water resources management (IWRM), and by identifying and quantifying key interactions and evaluate cost-benefit scenarios, taking ecosystems impact into account. Contact information is provided in the publication.  

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