Addressing the Agriculture, Energy, Water, Climate Change Nexus

12-13 August 2019, Canberra

Topic Overview

The food and nutrition security community have come to realise the need to move beyond silos in their research and policy development and work ‘in the field’ to address cross-cutting and nexus issues to bring real impact from their endeavours.

In keeping with this understanding, the Crawford Fund’s 2019 conference will again address a set of significant nexus issues, this year highlighting where action is needed or underway around agriculture, energy and water which are all further exacerbated by climate change impacts.

Droughts, floods, fires and their devastating consequences receive considerable attention as stand-alone events on the evening news. However in laboratories, in research facilities and on farm our agricultural scientists, policy makers and farmers have come to appreciate that climate change is occurring hand-in-hand with depleting natural resources and a growing and hungry population. Is our work for a more food and nutrition secure world, at the intersections of agriculture, energy and water, changing to both address these challenges and successfully harness a new future?

It has been argued strongly, that under a business as usual scenario, feeding the estimated almost 10 billion global population in 2050 will be unsustainable in terms of available resources including water and nutrients, and will further damage already overstretched ecosystems and biodiversity.

Complicating the picture is agriculture’s energy needs. We are told that using current energy intensive practices agriculture is already responsible for approximately 14% of greenhouse gas emissions.  Whilst large and wealthy agricultural producing countries are among the largest emitters, by 2030, growth in emissions will be greatest in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa due to increasing livestock and oilseed production. Land clearing and depletion of existing soil organic carbon stocks under agricultural practices also further add to emissions.

“The Perfect Storm” was a term coined by Sir John Beddington, the Sir John Crawford memorial address presenter when UK Chief Scientist, to describe his prediction that by 2030, food shortages, scarce water and insufficient energy resources would threaten to unleash public unrest, cross-border conflicts and mass migration as people fled from the worst-affected regions.

Now, more than 10 years later, our 2019 conference will examine the available evidence as to whether the ‘storm’ is still on track to happen, or whether scientific, engineering and agricultural innovation and what is happening in the farmer’s field has lessened or delayed its impact.

Our morning keynote speaker, Sir Charles Godfray, Director of the renowned Oxford Martin School at the University of Oxford, will paint a big picture with regional diversities, addressing the question of whether Sir John’s foresight remains accurate and what, if anything has changed. In doing so, we will hear about the state of food insecurity, water resource availability, the impact of energy generation and urban water demand on water flows and availability for agriculture.

This will be followed by specific sessions addressing nexus issues within agriculture and climate change; agriculture and energy efficiency, and circular food systems including a set of examples of impact delivered as case studies in short, rapid-fire presentations by leading Australian and international researchers across industries, global regions and agricultural sectors.

Sarah Barker, Special Counsel at Minter Ellison, is our afternoon keynote speaker. She will consider the roles and responsibilities of both government and private sectors in driving adaptation to the impacts of climate change; future trends in investment across food and energy sectors; how smallholder farmers can adapt financially to the uncertain impacts of climate change; and, how these issues are addressed by the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

We hope to welcome you to our 2019 event and have your input and insights on these significant issues in order to improve understanding and appreciation of what must be done to ensure food and nutrition security in a complex world.