UAE, Jordan, Netherlands host Water-Food-Energy Summit at Expo 2020 Dubai

The UAE, Jordan, and the Netherlands presented the inaugural edition of the Water-Food-Energy (WFE) Summit. Held over two days in January as part of Expo 2020 Dubai’s Global Goals Week, the first-of-its-kind trilateral event aimed to advance innovation to tackle some of the greatest challenges in water, food, and energy.

Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment, Mohammad Al Najjar, Minister of Water and Irrigation of Jordan, and Liesje Schreinemacher, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation of the Netherlands, led the summit on behalf of the host countries. The hybrid event drew the participation of high-level government officials, leaders from the private sector, members of the academic and scientific community, and youth delegates.

The UAE, Jordan, and the Netherlands issued a trilateral declaration affirming their commitment to supporting a nexus approach that optimizes resource use, and calling on other governments to join them in acknowledging the interdependent relationships between water, food, and energy. 

Clean water, sustainable energy, and sufficient food are critical for survival, and their absence impacts the health and livelihoods of communities across the globe. The joint statement encouraged governments to incorporate practical solutions to water, food, and energy challenges into policy-making, and accelerate progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The ministers of the three countries expressed their hope that the summit would serve as a springboard for more collective efforts in international fora to boost the water-food-energy nexus approach. 

Almheiri said: “As we move towards a global population of 10 billion in 2050, current ecosystems face immense pressure to meet the growing demand for water, food, and energy without putting further strain on our natural resources. We are aware that in the next nine years, the world must achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and that this requires us to redouble our efforts given the inadequate progress so far and the aggravating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Liesje Schreinemacher said: “Around the world, we face enormous challenges when it comes to water, energy, and food: rising water levels, or not having enough water, extreme weather due to climate change, and food scarcity. These issues affect all countries, so we 

must look for solutions together. This cooperation between the Netherlands, the UAE, and Jordan is a good example of how all parties can benefit from working together. The UAE and Jordan are facing water scarcity and are looking for smart solutions to this problem. That is an area of expertise the Netherlands and Dutch companies are known for. For example, our three countries are working on a database that keeps track of how much water is needed to provide people with drinking water, and how to grow vegetables now and in even more extreme weather conditions. The interaction between the business community, knowledge institutions, and governments is essential in tackling these global challenges.”

Dr Saleh Al-Kharabsheh, Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources of Jordan, said: “In the coming decades, the world will need increasing amounts of resources. Population growth, resource-intensive lifestyles, and the damaging effects of climate change will lead to water, energy, and food insecurity across the globe. I very much welcome this summit, whose co-curators aim to increase the collective understanding of the interdependent relationships between water, energy, and food security, and to provide solutions that integrate the three amidst the ongoing collaborations between our three countries.”

To demonstrate what technology, knowledge, and cooperation can achieve, the event featured a presentation on the WFE Nexus Dashboard, designed by a previously established UAE, Jordan, and Netherlands trilateral working group. The evidence-based nexus approach brings together relevant data related to the three scarce resources. With the help of the dashboard, this data can be used to outline synergies between water, food, and energy to enhance efficiency, in addition to identifying potential trade-offs where choices have to be made. 

The nexus approach will be conducive to improved policy dialogues, resulting in well-informed policies, and lead to maximizing the desired effects in the use of water, food, and energy. It will shape policies that strengthen equitable access to the resources by ensuring that policy-makers and oversight bodies thoroughly understand the consequences of each scenario. The approach also caters to the needs of the private sector by creating a transparent and predictable policy environment, where key data is readily available for entrepreneurs to use in their business plans.