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The project is called CADWAGO – Climate Change Adaptation and Water Governance: Reconciling food security, renewable energy and the commission of multiple ecosystem services. It is one of four proposals to win grants this year from the intensely competitive Europe and Global Challenges programme, funded by the Riksbankens Jubileumsfond, the Volkswagen Stiftung and Compagnia di San Paolo.

Europe and Global Challenges aims to encourage scientists to collaborate with partners around the world to tackle global challenges that require transnational solutions: from climate change, to pandemics, to rising conflicts around natural resources.

“Water supplies are typically managed locally or regionally, but in an increasingly globalized world, ensuring water security will require global solutions – especially amid growing scarcity”, says Neil Powell, project manager. “And to a great extent, adapting to climate change in the coming decades will be about water.”

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned that water resources and the ecosystems that depend on them will be affected by a wide range of climate change impacts, including rising sea levels, shrinking glaciers and reduced snow cover, changing weather and precipitation patterns, and an increase in extreme weather events. In many places, these impacts could result in severe water stress.

These changes have major implications for water resource management and, more broadly, for sustainable development. Since water is a necessity of life, crucial for a wide array of sectors, water scarcity could jeopardize economic growth and efforts to reduce poverty, disrupt energy systems, and also threaten food security, locally and globally.

“At the same time, demand for water is rising, with research suggesting that by 2030, there will be a global deficit of 40% between supply and demand”, Powell says. “Without a significant change in how we manage water resources, the issue of supply and demand will be impossible for governments to solve. A more global and collaborative approach needs to be part of the solution. But currently we do not have a mechanism for coordinated global management of water resources.”

Looking for solutions
That is the focus of CADWAGO: What policy options would make it possible to manage our water resources collectively – and better – so that we can increase our capacity to adapt to climate change?

“I see a unique opportunity for CADWAGO to instill meaningful insights into important political processes in Europe, which will have global implications for world water management in the wake of climate change,” Powell says. “Our intention is to inform EU policy and decision-makers about innovative ways to address the global water issue.”

At SEI, the project team includes Neil Powell, Åsa Gerger Swartling, Annemarieke de Bruin and Rasmus Kløcker Larsen. SEI carries out two case studies, one centred on the palm oil sector in central Kalimantan, Borneo, which is changed dramatically due to the demand for palm oil, driven in part by demand for biofuels, food and cosmetics, one focusing on the project Baltic Compass, where 10 Baltic countries were engaged to look for alternative modes to foster transboundary governance as a means to reconcile the eutrophication issue in the Baltic Sea.

In addition, the project involves researchers from the Open University, the University of the Sunshine Coast, Brock Environment and Sustainability Research Centre, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Griffith University, University of Tasmania, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Wageningen UR and University of Sassari/University of Ancona.

Learn more about CADWAGO »