Session 13 - Systems’ concepts supporting sustainable economy concepts and nexus approaches

Convener - Jochen Schanze, Ortwin Renn

Speaker Titel Abstract Kind of presentation
Ansel Renner Relational accounting for the interactions between the technosphere and the biosphere: do we know how to preserve our life support system?  In consideration of the environment, economic narratives fixate on three aspects. Namely, they claim that the environment serves to: (1.A) make resources available for production; (1.B) absorb waste; and (1.C) exert amenity value. Recently, the novel ‘nature’s contributions to people’ (NCP) approach has proposed a more comprehensive characterization. Namely, NCP claims that the environment contributes: (2.A) material inputs, used directly by the economy; (2.B) regulatory services, required for the operation of the environment and a proper functioning of the economy; and (2.C) non-materially, i.e. preservation of the integrated diversity of forms and functions available in nature, key for adaptability in relation to long-term sustainability. Notably, this second characterization relates closely to the goals of a circular economy (CE), which require that three categories of fund-flows be preserved and kept at their ‘highest utility and value’: (3.A) societal funds and flows, operating in the technosphere; (3.B) natural funds stabilizing flows traversing the technosphere-biosphere border, i.e. producing primary resources and absorbing wastes; and (3.C) natural funds and flows operating in the biosphere and reproducing ‘nature’. In this contribution, we use the emergence of NCP, the discussion of the goals of a CE, and the failure of the Biodiversity Strategy to 2020 to profile an analytical toolkit useful for the identification of critical sustainability factors. Our toolkit is based on the rationale of the metabolic pattern of social-ecological systems—the rationale of non-equilibrium thermodynamics. Our toolkit operationalizes the state-pressure relation between the technosphere—the state of the dissipative structure, described by an array of end-uses—and the biosphere—the context expected to handle resulting pressures, described by an array of environmental pressures. Use of this relation is illustrated across scales and dimensions to identify which conditions must be avoided in order to prevent environmental pressures from translating into irreversible impacts on ecological funds. Oral (normal length)
Janez Susnik Operationalising the nexus: A system dynamics model to explore the water-land-energy-food-climate nexus in Latvia with an assessment of the impact of policy measures  Water, energy, food/land use and climate are connected a system defined by complexity and feedback, commonly referred to as the nexus. The characteristics of the nexus change depending on the scale being considered, the location, and the sectors of interest: it is essential to clearly define study boundaries prior to modelling or assessment. System dynamics modelling (SDM) is an approach developed for studying complex systems, and has found widespread application, especially in the environmental and natural sciences, with many recent examples applied to a wide variety of complex (environmental) issues. Due to its flexibility, SDM is an ideal tool to explore the nexus: many disparate sectors can easily be combined and interlinked in one coherent modelling environment and (policy) scenarios can be modelled. Results from an SDM developed for Latvia to explore the nexus are presented. In Latvia, the principle nexus sectors of interest are land use, energy generation, and water quality. Of particular interest is the drive towards a low carbon economy through the cultivation of crops for energy (biomass). However, this may hinder other targets in food security, protection of forested lands, and preserving and improving water quality and biodiversity. The SDM captures these critical links, dynamically linking the sectors but with a focus towards the biofuel and energy sectors, and the concomitant impacts on the water, land and climate sectors (e.g. the impacts of converting crop or forestry land to biocrop areas, and the impacts for water quality and national CO2-e emissions). Policy options, developed with local expert stakeholder groups, are included to assess nexus-wide impacts of policy directions within Latvia. The model feeds a serious game aiming to elucidate nexus wide policy impacts to decision makers, giving them a better idea of nexus-wide impacts without having to implement uncertain and potentially expensive measures. Oral (normal length)
Jochen Schanze Towards a two-tier human-environment system framework: Concept, methods and experiments  Human-environment interrelations on various scales are challenging due to the multitude of components and interdependencies with their spatial and temporal dynamics. Their understanding requires consideration of both material and immaterial aspects. A number of frameworks have been developed in this respect taking e.g. a natural science, policy science, or environmental psychology view. The paper introduces the current state of development of a two-tier human-environment system framework. The first tier refers to the biophysical domain with interdependencies and dynamics of elements of the atmosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere and pedosphere on the one hand and the anthroposphere on the other hand. The second tier deals with the stakeholder domains involving perception, decision making and action of stakeholders as well as their interaction in a governance context. Observation and intervention are the principal interfaces between the two domains. Operationalisation of the conceptual part of the framework through methods and models follows separate lines for each domain. For the biophysical domain, modelling of coupled key processes and a specific foresight approach are used to mimic interdependencies and dynamics according to epistemological knowledge from selected system theories. A climate-sensitive human-environment system is taken as experiment to illustrate the representation of key processes through model pipelines and climate ensembles applying High Performance Computing. In contrast, the stakeholder domain is tackled with a wide spectrum of tools ranging from environmental perception measurement and decision support methods to stakeholder analysis involving several humanities’ theories. A final discussion leads to the conclusion that the framework despite its initial development phase already shows some potentials for further elaboration and broader application in various areas of environmental sciences and management. It may even serve as one synthesis approach in the evolving field of Integrated Earth System Science. Oral (normal length)
Mario Giampietro A novel quantitative approach to study the sustainability of the metabolic pattern of social-ecological systems: the MuSIASEM tool-kit  This contribution illustrates the theoretical foundation and possible applications of a novel approach to the analysis of sustainability: Multi-Scale Integrated Analysis of Societal and Ecosystem Metabolism (MuSIASEM). MuSIASEM has been developed within complex systems thinking and combines concepts from various disciplines—non-equilibrium thermodynamics, relational analysis, the bioeconomics of Georgescu-Roegen, biosemiotics, energetics, and societal metabolism—into a coherent theoretical framework. The resulting transdisciplinary and multiscale mode of analysis is currently being tested in the Horizon2020 project ‘Moving towards Adaptive Governance in Complexity: Informing Nexus Security’ (MAGIC). MuSIASEM helps the structuring of the perceptions (qualitative pre-analytical choices) and representations (quantitative analytical choices) of sustainability predicaments across scales and dimensions in relation to: (i) the priority given to existing concerns; and (ii) the constraints associated with the natural resource nexus (water, energy, food, land uses, human activity). Using relational analysis, MuSIASEM is capable of preserving coherence across indicators based on different metrics and describing processes across different levels and dimensions of analysis. These aspects are extremely important as they avoid the insurgence of the ‘silo-governance syndrome’. MuSIASEM represents a radical departure from the traditional paradigm of quantitative analysis used in conventional models as the information space generated within its framework effectively handles: (i) impredicativity (chicken-egg causality dilemmas); (ii) non-deterministic contingent assessments (entangled “what-if” scenarios); (iii) the integration of quantitative assessments defined in non-equivalent metrics across dimensions and scales; and (iv) spatial representations, essential for the analysis of environmental impact. Downward causation (what is desirable according to human wants) is framed against upward causation (what is feasible and viable according to the context) in exploration of possible solutions, i.e. coarse-graining (actual realizations of metabolic patterns). Practical examples of applications developed in the MAGIC project will be given to illustrate the potentiality of the approach. Oral (normal length)
Petra Schneider The Role of the Water-Energy-Food Nexus in Industrial Applications  The Nexus Approach to environmental resources' management examines the interrelatedness and interdependencies of environmental resources and their transitions and fluxes across spatial scales and between compartments (UNU FLORES, 2015). The Nexus approach, with its intersectoral scope, goes beyond classical integrated management approaches. In order to operate an economy in a social context in a truly sustainable way, material cycles must be consistently closed and bioeconomic approaches must be accelerated in order to end the overuse of non-renewable resources in the medium term. Industrial activities in a globalized world and time therefore require a new view on material cycles. The scientific discipline that deals with this issue is industrial ecology. The paper presents the key innovative Nexus-based approaches to the sustainable use of water and other resources in industry: industrial symbiosis, cleaner production, and eco-design. In addition, an overview of the evaluation tools and planning tools will be provided. As the Nexus approach refers to interrelatedness and interdependencies of environmental resources, the overall scope is mitigating fragmentation of material and energy cycles and with this closing the loops of environmental resources. Referring to resource transitions and fluxes across spatial scales and between compartments in the industrial section, there is a requirement for collaboration between sectors for responsible joint use of resources in order to benefit from cascade effects to reduce or even eliminate waste. Therefore, the Nexus approach in industrial applications can be considered a form of sharing economy. The contribution will be illustrated through an example of industrial symbiosis towards more efficient use of material and energy flows from the field of bioeconomy (considering insects farming and aquaponics). Oral (short presentation)
Sandra Venghaus Integrated transformation processes and their regional implementations - Towards a sustainable bioeconomy in the Rheinisches Revier  Ensuring the well-being of current and future generations without transgressing environmental limits is an overarching objective of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The concept of a sustainable bioeconomy offers a promising way towards a more circular economy since it focuses on interrelations, synergies and trade-offs between natural resources, such as water, energy, land, and soil, that are needed for the production of bio-based products. As such, a sustainable bioeconomy can actively foster nexus thinking. The research project Transform2Bio, that will be presented, uses the German lignite region Rheinisches Revier as a model region for understanding the socio-technical dynamics and implementation options by systematically identifying transformation trajectories for an entire sustainable bioeconomy. Therefore, an inter- and transdisciplinary research approach is used, pooling expertise from (agricultural) economics, operations and innovation management, entrepreneurship, political science, economic development, consumer psychology and socio-technical systems analysis. The research project emphasizes participatory methods and establishes an interactive stakeholder network (Stakes2Bio Lab) that fosters a ‘society to science’ dialogue as well as vice versa. The outcome will be transformation routes that are, at the same time, (a) desirable (from a sustainability perspective), (b) feasible (from a techno-economic perspective), and (c) acceptable (from a stakeholder consensus perspective). These routes will provide bioeconomy implementation options based on cutting-edge scientific research which can be readily tested against ‘real world’ stakeholder settings. Oral (normal length)
Tafadzwanashe Mabhaudhi An Adaptive Water-Energy-Food Nexus Framework for South Africa to Attain Sustainable Development Goals  The water-energy-food (WEF) nexus has been propounded as an apt tool for sustainably managing water, energy and food securities at different spatial and temporal scales. Since the early 2000’s, a substantial amount of research has gone into understanding the WEF nexus concept and its complexities as well as using it for discourse; the focus has now shifted to operationalising and applying the WEF nexus in real terms – moving from theory to practice. A precursor to operationalising the WEF nexus is to develop an appropriate framework for holistic integrated and systemic natural resources management that can be applied by concerned stakeholders and ensure consistent results in securitizing water, energy and food sectors. This paper presents the development of a WEF Nexus framework for South Africa that focuses specifically on attaining Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2 (zero hunger), 6 (clean water and sanitation) and 7 (affordable and clean energy), with synergies to other SDGs, in the medium term by 2030. The framework is premised on several criteria that includes; having equal weighting for the three sectors, incorporating drivers of change, accommodating challenges specific to and facing South Africa, accounting for integration among different sectors, linking to SDGs, taking into consideration innovations and being adaptable. The developed framework describes the interactions between the three sectors of water, energy and food. Furthermore, direct and indirect drivers of change which critically affect the water, energy and food linkages are incorporated. The framework further considers the importance of livelihoods and human well-being, all significant when considering sustainable development in a country such as South Africa. Oral (normal length)
Catalina Spataru Towards a next generation of Integrated Dynamic Models for resource nexus and circular economy  There is a need for integrated approaches water-energy-land-food-materials nexus to tackle the socio-economic and environmental issues. The current methodologies have different characteristics depending on their degree of accessibility (free, costly), their flexibility of being applied to different setting (cities, countries), the scope to which the tools cover (regional, national, global) and their level of complexity and comprehensiveness.This paper presents a model that calculates the trade-offs between resources (water, energy, land, food, materials). The study area of the model can be further divided into sub-areas using a pyramid structure and entities are modelled as knots or real extent that is only recorded as figures. A proposed Integrated Dynamic Assessment methodology for five-node nexus (water, energy, land, food, materials) in space and time (IDA5) is described. The model has been developed as a vehicle for teaching multi-regional trends, capturing the dynamics and trade-offs between resources. It was concluded that modeling across spatial and temporal scales raises the issue of long-term compatible action in the short-run. This is crucial when it comes to resource use schedules and environmental inter-generational equity issues. The future modelling strand in combining existing systems models (energy and water as being the most eminent one, with food models (such as the IFPRI ) and materials to assess SDGs goals. The transition towards the circular economy is the primary objective of research agenda for resource efficiency. Managing waste to increase recycling rates to reduce the pressure on use of raw materials, help reuse materials, reduce energy consumption will help boost competitiveness, ensure security of essential resources and reduce negative impact on environment. By adopting circular economy principles and building a large recycling infrastructure, with a market for repairs, re-use and recycling will boost economical, environmental and health benefits. Oral (short presentation)
Petra Kuenkel Stewarding Life Support Systems in Circular Economy Approaches  The state of the world suggests humankind is at a crossroad—the next 15 to 20 years will have a decisive impact—more than in any period before—on the conditions of life on Earth. Rising awareness about the urgency of finding new ways of maintaining the global life support system become increasingly important. The circular economy approach holds enormous potential to shift both underlying conceptual foundations of how transformations are approached and how practical solutions are implemented in a systemic way. If—as many scientists predict—humanity needs to rise up to its capacity for a stewardship approach to stabilize the trajectories of our planet, it becomes clear that understanding life support systems as an interdependent and interlinked system is paramount for scaling Circular Economy solutions. The paper argues that understanding what gives life to systems can become a guiding force for approaching the large systems change needed to advance such approaches. It explores the conceptual foundations for principles that govern socio-ecological systems in support of what the author terms ‘systems aliveness’: the capability of small and larger systems to gain resilience, regenerate and maintain their vitality in mutual consistency with other systems. The research draws from multiple, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary sources – such as systems theory, resilience, research, transition research, consciousness studies, quantum physics, architecture - to build the conceptual scaffolding and the academic support for the six principles: intentional generativity, mutually consistent wholeness, permeable containment, emergent novelty, contextual interconnectedness and proprioceptive consciousness (Kuenkel, 2019; Waddock & Kuenkel, 2019). Understanding such principles, and translating them into the design and implementation of Circular Economy solution potentially increases the uptake. This will be illustrated with an analysis of the content and process designed in the example of the Finish Roadmap to a circular economy. Oral (short presentation)
Yohannes Hagos Subagadis The nexus as development practice: A community-catchment approach to sustainable natural resources management.  Natural resources management in arid and semi-arid environments involve overcoming the complex challenges found at the intersection of fragile ecosystems and the interests of pastoralists, and subsistence farmers. In the Darfur region of Sudan, there are two main competing agricultural systems – smallholder farmers relying on rain-fed production, and pastoralists. Balancing resilient livelihoods with peaceful coexistence between these groups has become increasingly challenging due to shrinking access to land, water and forest, which is exacerbated by climate shocks. These challenges call for holistic human-environment approaches to managing natural resources in a comprehensive manner. The Taadoud partnership – Catholic Relief Services (CRS) lead consortium of six INGOs – is implementing a resilience program that aims to achieve increased sustainability in access to natural resources to improve food security and resilience in Darfur. Taadoud promotes a new Community-Catchment-Based Natural Resource Management (CCBNRM) approach. CCBNRM is a framework that addresses community vulnerability, their portfolio of assets (natural, social, economic) and the key role of community-level institutions and policies which intercede the outcomes of natural resource management. Working within ‘community-catchments’ and emphasizing inclusivity of all users, Taadoud creates negotiation platforms for previously-independent users of natural resources through Community-Catchment Action Groups (CCAGs). CCAGs develop natural resource management plans by facilitating community agreement on how to collectively manage their natural resources. Meanwhile, Taadoud conducts hydrological catchments study – detailed bio-physical study of soil, water and vegetation nexus – to explore the potential that the physical environment offers and implement sustainable interventions including, in-stream and landscape soil and water conservation, pasture management and afforestation activities. Analysis of results demonstrate this mix of social and bio-physical features and their interaction contributes significantly to the development of synergistic solutions. It simultaneously improves productivity of natural resources and strengthens community-level institutions which are key for peaceful coexistence in fragile ecosystems. Oral (normal length)
Julian Fleischmann Enabling the Design of Sustainable Water, Energy, and
Food Systems through Open-source Software
Anthropogenic activity has had unprecedented influence on Earth’s natural systems. Above all, climate change and the unfettered consumption of resources threaten the very existence of humankind and the ecosystems that sustain life. In this context, the holistic approach to managing water, energy and food presents a profound opportunity. These vital resources are inextricably linked in what is known as the water, energy, and food (WEF) nexus. Software tools can be applied to model the WEF nexus and develop comprehensive solutions. While WEF nexus tools already exist for top-down decision-making and governance, they are not yet available at the local level. In the proposed project, local water, energy, and food supply options will be identified and evaluated to compile a database of WEF solutions. Subsequently, a bottom-up WEF configuration and sizing tool for tailored WEF system designs will be developed. The AI-based optimization tool selects, connects and sizes suitable technologies of the WEF database considering local needs, onsite conditions and the long-term ecological footprint. Made accessible as open-source software and a mobile app, the tool will enable users to create site-specific plans optimized for economic viability and environmental compatibility. The goal and motivation of this project are to support the sustainable development of local infrastructure in a manner that meets human needs while preserving the climate and environment. Oral (short presenation)