It is widely recognized, that the availability of natural resources as well as the absorption capacities of our planet are limited. At the same time, the issue of equal access for people and economies all over the world to resources is gaining growing attention. Worldwide sustainable development will be closely linked to our ability to limit the use of natural resources within natural boundaries of our planet. In many countries the contribution of natural resources extraction is crucial to progress in macroeconomic policies, such as monetary and external debt balances, as well as in social policies aiming at food security or poverty alleviation. But resource extractive and especially mining activities also led to an increasing number of social and environmental conflicts all over the world. The safe and fair use of natural resources on the global level will have to be essential part of a positive vision of our future as humanity (O´Brien et al 2014), a notion which is also being reflected in the ongoing negotiation process of the future Sustainable Development Goals. In this brief we argue for the elaboration of scientifically derived suggestions for global resource targets as an important building element for sustainable and resilient societies, discuss the need for further differentiations and highlight the main environmental, social, economic and political aspects and implications.
The Hindukush-Karakoram-Himalayan (HKH) mountain ranges and highlands of the Tibetan Plateau (TP) contain large mountain glaciers of the world, and nourishes large Asian river basins with significant amounts of snow and glacier melt, thus are susceptible to global warming and climate change. Therefore, precise and accurate policy making and sustainable water resource development are vital to cater for needs of food and power generation of billions of people. Precise and accurate policy making and sustainable water resources development are dependent on the accuracy of hydrological modelling and its future forecasts, though contain inevitable significant uncertainties. Current study discusses
hydrological modelling uncertainties, biases and their causes in the Upper Indus Basin (UIB), which is originating from the HKH-TP region.
Because of economic development, increasing global population, and increased levels of affluence, future global demands for food, energy and water resources are expected to increase by 50%, 50% and
30% respectively (Beddington, 2009). However, with the world’s food, energy and water resources already experiencing shortfalls and stresses (Bizikova et al., 2013), there is an urgent need for nexus-oriented approaches to address unsustainable patterns of growth. The importance of these three resources has been highlighted in many publications, and they have been included in the Sustainable Development goals, which are to ensure the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all, universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy, and the achievement of food security and sustainable agriculture.
Water, energy and land resources are all interconnected and should not be viewed in isolation. Agriculture and industry (including energy) account for 70% and 22% of global water withdrawals respectively (Howells et al., 2013); 7% of all energy is used for water supply; and 4% of energy is directly used in agriculture (Bazilian et al., 2011). The need for integrated resource planning for
energy, water and land is becoming increasingly recognised by international institutions, national governments and businesses (Hoff, 2001). A policy that affects one resource can result in unexpected
consequences for another. There is a need for policy makers, institutions and businesses to understand better the connections between these resources and to integrate them in future plans for a sustainable future. To be able to achieve this, the UN and other institutions should promote holistic analysis of the interconnections between resources.
Many of the world’s extensive drylands host permanent and temporary wetlands, including features as diverse as floodplains, marshes, swamps, pans and oases. Their presence in climatically variable, moisture stressed environments means that these wetlands are key providers (‘hotspots’) of ecosystem services, including water and food supply. Land use, population and climate change threatens the functioning of many wetlands in drylands, however, and interdisciplinary scientific studies of the implications for ecosystem services are
urgently needed to support sustainable development planning. This brief provides an overview of the state of scientific understanding of wetlands in drylands and their ecosystem services, and identifies key knowledge gaps and data requirements. This will provide the basis for informed discussion among policy makers as part of their preparations for the 2015 Global Sustainable Development Report.
Accessing water for productive agricultural use remains a challenge for millions of poor smallholder farmers, who constitute the majority of producers in sub-Saharan Africa (sSA). In 2006, 225 million hectares of land was cultivated in sSA. However, the total area equipped for irrigation was 7.2 million hectares, only 3.2% of the total cultivated area.
Hunger, malnutrition and poverty still persist, particularly in rural areas, despite recent growth in agricultural GDP. Improving access to water, while removing economic and institutional constraints, could enable millions of smallholder farmers to adopt irrigation and successfully grow their way out of poverty. At the same time, this action will reduce hunger and malnutrition.
Facilitating productivity gains by improving farmers’ access to water will help governments and international agencies to achieve many of the proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). There are four interrelated measures that will be of particular use. These are: increasing investment in sustainable water infrastructure (from small scale to large scale) and technologies to augment water supply; guaranteeing water and land rights for poor smallholder farmers, including women and young people; including smallholder farmers in viable value chains and improving their access to adequate financial and extension services and markets; and increasing water use efficiency and agricultural productivity. These measures are essential if sSA governments are to attain the SDGs of ending poverty and hunger, and achieving food security and improved nutrition by 2030.
The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets related to water quality must be ambitious and comprehensive if they are to prevent a global water quality crisis. This is because the scale of water pollution is immense. Every day, humans generate millions of tons of solid and liquid waste. Much of this waste is discharged untreated to water bodies, severely polluting the water and damaging human health, ecosystems and industries.
A 2014 analysis supported by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) shows that 24 Mha of irrigated croplands lie within urban areas and 130 Mha of irrigated croplands are located within 20 km of urban areas (Thebo et al., 2014). A significant proportion of this farmland is irrigated with diluted wastewater. In and around 75% of all cities in developing countries, water used for irrigation is highly polluted (Raschid-Sally and Jayakody, 2008).
For decades, the fate and impacts of waste and wastewater were poorly considered in the global development agenda spearheaded by the Millennium Development Goals. However, it is now widely recognized that water quality targets need to go beyond access to sanitation facilities. They must address the fate of wastewaters and their impacts on the environment and human health, and be relevant for developed and developing countries alike.
Providing everyone with access to water is vital to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on health, livelihoods and economic growth. Providing women and the poor (lowincome earners and those who are landless) with access to water is especially important in rural and urban fringe areas. A series of far-reaching strategic solutions and policies need to promote social inclusion to achieve the SDGs, including to:
• Train and build the capacity of women and marginalized socio-economic groups so that they can have more active leadership roles in water management systems, at household and community levels.
• Train policy makers, planners and those in water organizations to actively consider women and poor farmers’ water needs.
• Develop specific technologies and inclusive institutions and policies so women and poor farmers can participate in water use and management systems in the context of prevailing gender norms and local realities.
• Improve women’s access and rights to water, through informal channels and legal mechanisms.
Decoupling of resources use from economic growth is one of the central challenges of pathways towards a sustainable future. In this context, industrial symbiosis holds huge potential. While increased resource efficiency is one of its central aspects, industrial symbiosis links to broader agendas in the fields of green economy, innovation, material and energy security, climate change, as well as local, regional and national welfare.
The key to sustainable development is achieving a balance between the exploitation of natural resources for socio-economic development, and conserving ecosystem services that are critical to everyone’s wellbeing and livelihoods (Falkenmark et al., 2007). There is no blueprint for obtaining this balance. However, an understanding of how ecosystem services contribute to livelihoods, and who benefits and who loses from changes arising from development interventions, is essential…
In spite of expanding formal protected areas and numerous global agreements to reduce the impacts of human activities on the environment, clearing of the world’s natural forests and the resultant loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services continues at an alarming pace (Watson et al., 2014). The causes of deforestation are diverse and complex, including economic and institutional factors, compounded by climate change. The Strategic Plan for Biodiversity agreed upon at the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity emphasized the need for investment in institutions for the protection and management of biodiversity and ecosystems (CBD, 2010), with Rio+20 discussions noting “these institutions must be able to cope with changes in ecosystems, steer away from abrupt change in ecosystem function, and provide a buffer from the most detrimental consequences of unavoidable changes” (Díaz et al., 2012).
But creating institutions for conservation and biodiversity management can be both difficult and costly (McCarthy, 2012). Conservation can be especially challenging in vast human-modified landscapes such as farmland and pasture which comprise much of the 84.6% of the Earth’s land area which remains outside formal protected areas (UNEPWCMC, 2014). One alternative to building new institutions from scratch is supporting and learning from conservation institutions that exist. Sacred natural sites – such as the thousands of Ethiopian Orthodox church forests scattered across Ethiopia’s Northern Highlands (Figure 1) – represent ecologically and institutionally diverse libraries of biodiversity, whose full ecological and institutional values have only begun to be appreciated.
In recent years there has been an increasing focus on rare earth elements (REEs) as highly valuable ingredients for innovation, especially regarding the development of sustainable energy technologies. Rare earth elements, also commonly referred to as rare earth metals, are defined by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) as a group of seventeen elements, consisting of the fifteen lanthanoids, along with scandium and yttrium. Related to the chemical structure and purpose REE can be divided in Light REEs (LREEs) and Heavy REEs (HREEs). Their relative chemical similarity makes them hard to separate during the mining process, but their different physical properties make different REEs valuable for a range of various technological applications. Several of these technologies support sustainable development, for instance through increased energy efficiency and renewable energy production. Examples include – but are not limited to – permanent magnets, batteries for e-mobility and energy-efficient lighting (for further applications see appendix). World-wide demand is expected to grow by 8 to 11% each year. The increase in demand is intertwined with environmental implications of production and existing supply risks due to an intricate and complex market. This has led to the identification of REEs as critical raw materials, which this science digest focus on.