Western Switzerland has a wide network of experts in weather, hydrology, energy, agriculture and climate. This is due in part to the high concentration of international organizations in Geneva as well as the strong orientation of universities in the region towards innovation, invention, research and development. To capitalize on this expertise, WMO hosted the First Forum on the Water-Energy-Food Nexus at its headquarters on 25 January. The workshop explored ways of harnessing the synergies within this network of experts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals in the water-energy-food nexus.
The participants shared an interest in developing common projects with clear applications on the water-energy-food area of study. They represent the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Université de Genève (UNIGE), Université de Lausanne (UNIL), Université de Neuchâtel (UNINE), Haute école du paysage, d’ingénierie et d’architecture de Genève (HEPIA), Haute Ecole d’Ingénierie et de Gestion du Canton de Vaud (HEIG-VD), Centre de recherche sur l’environnement alpin (CREALP) and MeteoSwiss.
The workshop began with a presentation on the work done by WMO in the area of hydrology, water management, agriculture, food security and energy, followed by 18 short presentations by representatives of research groups from the participating academic and research institutions. This helped identify complementary areas of work and potential collaborations such as developing common projects and proposals, joint implementation of activities, capacity building and student/post- doctorate exchanges.
The workshop concluded with a WMO-moderated panel discussion between representatives of the International Centre for Earth Simulation (ICES) Foundation, EURESEARCH, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Switzerland’s Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN). The panelists outlined the strategic views of their institutions and encouraged all participants to find concrete avenues for developing partnerships based on the potential opportunities for cooperation identified during the workshop.
For example, one opportunity concerns the use of water resources for hydropower in mountainous environments such as the Himalayas and the Andes. The Swiss hydropower research performed by several the participating groups can be integrated into a Green Climate Fund project proposal currently being designed by WMO. Another opportunity can be developed in the Sahel, where WMO activities in agrometeorology, disaster risk reduction and climate services-related projects can pair well with HEIG-VD activities on hydrological assessments of water harvesting techniques.
“This Forum showcased the entire spectrum of ideally complementary expertise available in western Switzerland’s higher education institutions around all the domains related to the water-energy-food nexus,” said Massimiliano Capezzali, Deputy Director of the Energy Center at EPFL, “with an impressive portfolio of past and present concrete projects. It behooves this community to foster possible fruitful future collaborations leveraging on these competencies.”