The Role of Quantifying Material Flows in the Governance of the Water-Energy-Food Nexus

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 09:15
Oral Presentation
Thomas VOELKER, Joint Research Centre, European Commission, Italy
Kirsty BLACKSTOCK, The James Hutton Institute, Scotland
Zora KOVACIC, Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, Spain
Roger STRAND, University of Bergen, Norway
Jan SINDT, Climate Analytics, Germany
In recent years we have witnessed a growing interest in the water-energy-food (WEF) nexus in both academia and policy highlighting the need to address the institutional, political and cultural dimensions of nexus policy-making (Cairns & Krzywoszynska, 2016; Stirling, 2015). The concept directs attention to three aspects: (1) the interrelated pressures created by agricultural production, water use, and energy production and consumption practices, (2) the epistemic challenges of understanding these complex and non-linear interactions and (3) to the policy problem of governing a transition to more sustainable modes of production and consumption.

This presentation aims at contributing to an understanding of the institutional, political and cultural aspects of nexus governance. It will be based on material from the Horizon 2020 project ’Moving towards adaptive governance in complexity’[1], which aims at exploring the quantitative assumptions within policy narratives on the nexus, using an approach called Quantitative Story Telling (QST). QST is a cyclical participatory modelling approach, starting with problem definition, establishing and quantifying the narrative using a social metabolism approach called MuSIASEM (Multi-Scale Integrated Analysis of Societal and Ecosystem Metabolism), then discussing the model results in terms of feasibility, viability and (crucially) desirability. Scoping interviews and thematic analysis of policy documents suggest there are different narratives around what is measured and how these metrics can be used to generate niches for nexus thinking within the European Commission policy units. In particular, we are interested in seeing whether alternative metrics and discussions catalysed by these results, can help make space for alternative modes of governance. (Asdal, 2008; Hajer, 2006; Porter, 1995)

As such, this talk will contribute to the overall aim of the session to provide a critical analysis of the role of metrics in environmental governance by directing attention to their discursive, institutional, political and material aspects.

[1] http://magic-nexus.eu/. Accessed 22.9.17