System complexity and policy integration challenges: The Brazilian Energy- Water-Food Nexus

Mercure, J-F.; Paim, M. A.; Bocquillon, P.; Lindner, S.; Salas, P.; Martinelli, P.; Berchin, I. I.; de Andrade Guerra, J. B. S. O.; Derani, C.; de Albuquerque Junior, C. L.; Ribeiro, J. M. P.; Knobloch, F.; Pollitt, H.; Edwards, N. R.; Holden, P. B.; Foley, A.; Schaphoff, S.; Faraco, R. A. and Vinuales, J. E. (2019). System complexity and policy integration challenges: The Brazilian Energy- Water-Food Nexus. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 105 pp. 230–243.



The Energy-Water-Food Nexus is one of the most complex sustainability challenges faced by the world. This is particularly true in Brazil, where insufficiently understood interactions within the Nexus are contributing to large-scale deforestation and land-use change, water and energy scarcity, and increased vulnerability to climate change. The reason is a combination of global environmental change and global economic change, putting unprecedented pressures on the Brazilian environment and ecosystems. In this paper, we identify and discuss the main Nexus challenges faced by Brazil across sectors (e.g. energy, agriculture, water) and scales (e.g. federal, state, municipal). We use four case studies to explore all nodes of the Nexus. For each, we analyse data from economic and biophysical modelling sources in combination with an overview of the legislative and policy landscape, in order to identify governance shortcomings in the context of growing challenges. We analyse the complex interdependence of developments at the global and local (Brazilian) levels, highlighting the impact of global environmental and economic change on Brazil and, conversely, that of developments in Brazil for other countries and the world. We conclude that there is a need to adjust the scientific approach to these challenges as an enabling condition for stronger science-policy bridges for sustainability policy-making.

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  • Item ORO ID
  • 59064
  • Item Type
  • Journal Item
  • ISSN
  • 1364-0321
  • Project Funding Details
  • Funded Project NameProject IDFunding Body
    EoI NERC - Plausible Pathways Policy Impact fundingNE/P015093/1NERC (Natural Environment Research Council)
    Resilience and foresight for global environmental change in Brazil: Complexity across scales in the Energy-Water-Food NexusES/N013174/1ESRC Economic and Social Research Council
    Not SetEP/N002504/1EPSRC
    Not SetEP/K007254/1EPSRC
    Not SetNot SetCONICYT
    Not SetNot Set,PhilomathiaFoundatio
  • Keywords
  • Science-based policy; Energy-water-food nexus; Water scarcity; Climate change; Land-use change; Biofuels; Food security
  • Academic Unit or School
  • Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) > Environment, Earth and Ecosystem Sciences
    Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)
  • Copyright Holders
  • © 2019 The Authors
  • Depositing User
  • Philip Holden