Addressing the Agriculture, Energy, Water, Climate Change Nexus

12-13 August 2019, Canberra


Brian Dawson

SDIP Energy and Climate Change Adviser,
DFAT’s South Asia Regional Program

Brian Dawson is a climate change and energy specialist with over 35 years professional experience working on energy and climate policy issues at domestic and international levels. He is an energy economist by training, and holds Masters degrees in both Economics and Environmental Policy and Management. He is published author on a range of climate change and energy matters.

Since 2013 Brian has been engaged as the Climate Change and Energy Adviser for DFATs South Asia Regional Program. He also provides advisory services to a range of other multilateral and regional organizations on climate change and development issues.

Prior to this he has held a range of senior positions with the Australian Government and several international organizations of positions. In the past 20 years he has held the positions of: Principal Climate Change Adviser, Secretariat of the Pacific Community (Noumea, New Caledonia); AusAID Climate Change Adviser, Climate Change Adviser, United Nations Development Program (New York), Manager, Emissions Quantification, Monitoring and Verification Branch (Australian Greenhouse Office), and Director, Energy Division, Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (Fiji). He has extensive experience in climate change and energy issues in a developing country context.

Energy, Agriculture and Rural Development


Rising populations, rapid urbanization, industrial expansion and economic growth is projected to significantly increase in the demand for water, energy and food in South Asia over the next two decades (energy demand alone is projected to more than double by 2040). Water availability per capita is expected to continue its long term decline (particularly in Pakistan and parts of India where it could reach crisis levels in some subregions in the next 20 years). Arable land per capita will also continue to fall and food supply increases will need to come through intensification of agricultural production systems and/or increased food imports.

Climate change is expected to exacerbate these emerging resource scarcity issues. Rising temperatures, changes to water resource availability (due to melting glaciers and changed precipitation regimes), and the projected increase in the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events (droughts, floods and heat waves) are all projected to adversely impact on economic production, especially in the agriculture and energy sectors.

Maintaining water, energy and food security going security going forward will be a significant challenge for South Asian countries. Competition for land and water resources is set to intensify, driven by increased demand from agriculture, the energy sector and industry. Emerging resource constraints may involve difficult resource allocation trade-off decisions across sectors in the near future. Balancing the competing demands across sectors will be essential to sustaining future economic growth, poverty alleviation (especially achieving SDG targets) and maintaining political security at the national and regional level. The extent to which South Asian countries can effectively manage these emerging issues will largely determine the region’s future economic development trajectory.

Adopting a more integrated ‘nexus’ based approach to natural resource management and development planning offers considerable potential to deliver improved water, energy and food (WEF) security outcomes It could also contribute to enhanced climate change resilience.  Australia, through the Sustainable Development Investment Portfolio, is supporting countries to better manage these emerging WEF security constraints, through targeted aid program investments and public/economic diplomacy. The focus of this paper is to highlight some of the innovative approaches that have been supported through SDIP and how they are contributing to improved development outcomes in the agriculture and energy sectors in South Asia.