What are energy and water diplomacy and why do they matter?
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We take it as a given that successfully addressing truly global challenges such as energy security and water scarcity means the EU cannot act on its own, but it can try to lead the way. Global challenges require joint action on the part of the international community, and preferably the whole international community. Therefore, the EU seeks to use its diplomatic tools in order to get everyone on board, particularly the biggest countries, and to support the most vulnerable ones. In practice, this means ensuring that water and energy-related issues are included, high on the agenda, in our bilateral dialogues with third countries and in multilateral fora. In this way we aim to stress the importance of energy and water as critical elements in external relations and to ensure that the international community takes an integrated approach in addressing them. We believe that 21st century diplomacy is about seeing the whole picture, with all of its interdependencies between different elements, meaning extending diplomacy to areas and actors well beyond ‘traditional’ inter-state relations. This approach should allow us not only to create bridges and interconnections with third countries, but also to strengthen the EU’s role as a global actor.
In an attempt to define the two different but interrelated elements of the water-energy nexus, water diplomacy serves to achieve peaceful, inclusive and sustainable water cooperation between cities, regions and countries. There is no doubt that water is directly related to peace and security, especially in view of the fact that every third person in the world, or 2.1 billion people, lack access to potable water at home, and that 365,000 children under the age of five die every year from diarrhoea. Water scarcity and risks related to water are rising in all regions, with Sub-Saharan Africa as the most vulnerable, due to natural disasters, climate change, pollution and increasing strains on water resources related to the growing water demands of an ever increasing world population. The challenge is enormous – it is estimated that by 2025, half of the world’s population could be exposed to water stress conditions .
As for energy diplomacy, it is a broad effort to link foreign policy with the challenges and opportunities created in the energy sector, which lies at the heart of all modern economies. It is concerned with the notion of energy access, which centres on the need of a humans to have access to some form of energy, and the concept of energy security, aiming to provide a reliable and affordable supply of energy to citizens. The need for sustained diplomatic efforts is amply illustrated by the fact that over 1 billion people still lack access to electricity . Increasingly, energy diplomacy is also concerned with the geopolitical impact of the ongoing technology- and policy-driven transition to a low carbon future. The pace and scope of the spread of renewables worldwide are increasing, making it probable that by 2040, renewables will become the third source of energy in the global energy mix, equalling the share of oil and gas together .
The overall aim of the EU’s diplomatic efforts is to combine actions to catalyse progressive development strategies, with dialogue and advocacy to promote uptake of policies which have been proven to work in other parts of the world – not least in the EU itself – and where we believe we can help share the benefits of our own experience, adapted to local circumstances.
What are the policy objectives and priorities?
The policy objectives of EU Water Diplomacy are neatly set out in the Foreign Affairs Council Conclusions of July 2013. These highlight the potential of water diplomacy to help safeguard security, development, prosperity and the human rights of water and sanitation. The EU has a substantive commitment to address the root causes of water challenges across the world, particularly through its work on development and the environment, as well as its assistance for water and sanitation, in order to achieve the sustainable development goals, including ensuring access to drinking water for all by 2030. One of the objectives of EU water diplomacy is to engage proactively in trans-boundary water security challenges with the aim of promoting collaborative and sustainable water management arrangements and to encourage regional and international cooperation on water.
When it comes to EU energy diplomacy, our aim is to represent the external interest of the EU’s Energy Union, and in this context, to provide energy security to our citizens through diversification of energy sources, suppliers and routes. In a broader perspective, the EU seeks to engage in bilateral and multilateral formats in order to: first, provide energy access to those without it in different parts of the world; second, to reinforce the global energy transition while supporting the EU’s ambitious sustainability goals and the competitiveness of its economy; and third, to strengthen the EU’s role in the global energy architecture, including in building the global liquefied natural gas (LNG) market. The political framework for the EU’s energy diplomacy was laid down in the Foreign Affairs Council Conclusions of July 2015 and in the accompanying Action Plan. Energy diplomacy was also listed in the EU Global Strategy of 2016  as a new field of EU external action, next to economic diplomacy and cultural diplomacy.
How are these policies interrelated?
Water and energy policies are not only inextricably linked, but together they play an important role in many sectors: food security, the environment, human rights, transport, trade, agriculture, migration and conflict prevention. Energy is an integral part of water processing: you need energy to pump water, treat waste water, irrigate crops and for desalination. The same applies to water: you need water to extract energy sources (fossil fuels are particularly waterintensive), to produce electricity and to cool nuclear plants. Therefore, an integrated approach to the management of water and energy resources – the water-energy nexus, or more comprehensively, the water-energy-food nexus – is essential to policymaking in order to address the challenge of fulfilling simultaneous demands for huge increases in water, energy and food supplies in a sustainable manner. This challenge is especially pertinent in view of the projected increase of the world’s population to nearly 10 billion by 2050, resulting in at least 50% increase in food production (since 2013), stimulating demand for water and energy . It is expected that by 2035, energy consumption will increase by 35% (since 2010), leading to an 85% increase in water consumption increase .
'Energy is an integral part of water processing'
Recognising the need for a holistic and integrated approach, the EU set itself the objective of supporting governments to devise sustainable responses to food production and the use of water and energy through development, diplomacy and scientific cooperation . We also support efforts in multilateral formats, as in the case of the UN’s 2030 Agenda, where water and energy are specifically targeted under goals 2 and 6, and which recognises the importance of these resources in advancing sustainable development and eradicating poverty.
How are these policies implemented?
First, through sectoral and policy dialogues. The EU has a long tradition of energy and water cooperation, including vast experience in managing trans-boundary waters. We have developed energy dialogues and water dialogues with third countries such as India, China and Iran. The dialogues serve as a platform for identifying policy synergies and designing joint actions. Just one example of many is the last EU-China Summit in Beijing on July 2018, where the EU and China adopted a joint statement on climate change and clean energy, and confirmed the importance of cooperation on water, including through the China-Europe Water Platform.
Water and energy aspects are also present in political dialogues with third countries and regions. In 2016 the EU co-launched a specific programme on the waterenergyfood security nexus, the ‘Nexus Dialogues’. It is designed to stimulate five regional dialogues in Africa (southern Africa and the Niger Basin), Latin America, Central Asia (the Aral Sea region) and the MENA region. These dialogues involve various stakeholders, including national and regional policymakers, the private sector, academia and civil society. Without cross-border dialogue, resource scarcity, whether related to energy, water or food, risks becoming a source of tension, rather than an agent for cooperative exchange. What are the main outcomes of the Nexus? In the Niger Basin alone, the Nexus has engaged representatives of the water, energy, agriculture and environment sectors and screened 350 cross-border development projects, 246 of them climate-related.
Second, through international structures. In its support for international governance and law in the areas of energy and water, the EU promotes accession to international organisations and agreements. As regards energy, the EU is a member of dozens of multilateral organisations and fora primarily focused on or closely related to energy, such as the G7, G20, Energy Charter, IRENA (the international renewable energy agency) and the Clean Energy Ministerial and Mission Innovation, and participates in the work of many others, including the International Energy Agency. When it comes to water, the EU focuses particularly on the UNECE Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes as well as the UN Convention on the Law of Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses. Through its delegations around the world, and often with the support of EU Member State embassies, the EU actively advocates ratification of these international conventions. We just completed a series of diplomatic démarches in dozens of capitals around the world in favour of the global scope of the UNECE convention.
Third, in action. Through its development cooperation, the EU supports access to water and sanitation as well as reliable and sustainable energy. In addition to the bilateral cooperation of the EU Member States, the EU has provided more than 2.2 billion Euros to water and sanitation projects in more than 62 countries worldwide since 2007, connecting more than 70 million people to improved drinking water and more than 24 million people to sanitation facilities. The EU’s development assistance on sustainable energy has amounted to over 4 billion Euros since 2005.
A very recent and pertinent example of an integrated and long-term EU approach is the Gaza photovoltaic solar field project, linking four areas of cooperation: energy (renewables), water, humanitarian support and conflict prevention. The EU-funded Southern Gaza Desalination Plant will bring fresh water to nearly 14% of the population by 2020 (the plant currently provides water to 75,000 people; 250,000 is the target by 2020) and has the potential to mitigate societal and political tensions in a highly vulnerable area, where 97% of water resources are unfit for consumption.
What are the main areas of future interest?
In our view, a long term perspective and strategic planning are key to extrapolating from the challenges and trends we observe today to the policymaking of tomorrow. The complexity of the water-energy nexus, influenced by many external factors, such as population growth, rate of urbanisation, climate disasters and regional and global instabilities, necessitates a holistic and forward-looking approach. It means that when planning energy and water diplomacy today, we focus on the world of tomorrow. What is the world of tomorrow? Let’s take an example of a megatrend that we closely follow – the energy transition from fossil fuels to renewables. This phenomenon should not be viewed as a mere change from one set of technologies to another, but rather as a multilayered process, having a profound impact on the world’s energy architecture. It may change balances of power by redistributing profits from current fossil fuels exporters to raw materials and technology producers
'When planning energy and water diplomacy today, we focus on the world of tomorrow'
for renewables. The transition may also result in the loosening of current energy dependencies and the creation of new ones, leaving an imprint on economies and societies, potentially even causing or aggravating social unrest in already vulnerable regions – if it is not foreseen and managed well. What will the long-term impact of energy transition on the water-energy nexus be? How should we use the opportunities it creates to improve energy and water access in the most vulnerable regions? In which formats and with whom should we engage to tap the full potential of the energy transition and at the same time mitigate negative consequences? These are the types of question which are crucial to thinking ahead about our future diplomatic efforts in pursuit of our energy and water policies in the coming years and decades.
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 Progress on drinking water, sanitation and hygiene. Joint Monitoring Programme 2017 update and SDG baselines World Health Organization, 2017
 Energy Access Outlook 2017, International Energy Agency, 2017.
 2018 BP Energy Outlook
 A Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign And Security Policy
 The Future of Food and Agriculture. Trends and Challenges. Food and Agriculture Organisation of United Nations, Rome, 2017.
 IEA 2012 in Thirsty Energy: Securing Energy in a Water-Constrained World. World Bank Group, August 29, 2013.
 Under the framework of the EU Global Strategy of 2016