MAGIC session at International Seminar on Environment & Society

02 March 2020
water-energy-food nexus
science-policy interface

A team of MAGIC researchers presented the project in a special session entitled "Governing the water-energy-food-nexus: Governance in complexity" at the International Seminar on Environment and Society—Current Challenges and Pathways to Change, which was held from 2-3 March 2020 in Lisbon, Portugal.

In this panel, organized and chaired by Thomas Völker (University of Bergen), MAGIC researchers from the James Hutton Institute (UK), the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission, the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (Spain), and the University of Bergen (Norway) discussed how the WEF nexus is not only an epistemic but crucially a governance problem. They made the point that it is not “merely” a problem of how to produce more accurate knowledge about interdependencies “out there”, but one of balancing different ideas about what counts as legitimate knowledge and about how to deal with complexity and uncertainty in governance practices within European institutions. To address nexus challenges, it was argued, it is important to go beyond attempts at epistemically tackling “trade-offs” between water, energy and food and to focus on the complexity of interdependencies between nature and society. What is needed are approaches that allow for moving towards governance IN complexity instead of attempts at the governance OF complexity. The discussion during the panel tackled the following questions: How can the nexus be known? How can the nexus be governed? And how are ways of knowing the nexus mutually constitutive with our ideas about how it can be governed?

To address these questions the panel brought together selected case studies from the MAGIC project with more critical reflections of current modes of environmental governance:

  1. "Questioning the role of scientific experts in science-policy interfaces: Nexus and ‘sustainable agriculture’ in the EU", presented by Kirsty Blackstock (James Hutton Institute)
  2. "Desalinated and reclaimed waters: a new panacea for water governance?", presented by David Romero Manrique (JRC)
  3. "Energy systems are complex: implications for science and for policy", presented by Louisa Jane Di Felice (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona)
  4. "The role of knowledge in governance in the nexus", presented by Roger Strand (University of Bergen)

The presentations made are available in our document repository.