U.S. Action on Food and Water Security Through Innovation, Finance, and Data
As communities across the globe increasingly feel the impacts of climate change, food security is at greater risk—in large part due to growing water insecurity. The threats to global food security and water access contribute to instability and human security concerns in vulnerable parts of the world, and threaten progress made in recent years on reducing global hunger, poverty, and malnutrition.
In order to address the nexus between climate change, water, and food security, the United States is announcing new actions focused on addressing the current and future impacts of climate change on food production and water supply. These steps—along with key actions being announced today by private sector partners—center on taking our domestic water innovation leadership and applying it abroad, reducing barriers to financing solutions, and leveraging U.S. expertise on technical assistance and access to data.
Innovation through Research, Development & Deployment
The United States has been a leader on the cutting-edge of research and development (R&D) in agriculture and water technologies, which have supported U.S. competitive advantage in markets across the globe. Sustained leadership on innovation is necessary to maintain that competitive advantage and to meet the increasing demand from developing nations for new technologies that can provide solutions to the challenges climate change poses to the security of water, food supply, and the domestic and global economy. R&D is not only important for developing new technologies, but also for reducing costs to make it faster, easier and more affordable to deploy these cutting-edge solutions. That is why today, the Federal Government is announcing the following actions:
- Making U.S. Government Water Patents More Accessible for U.S. Businesses, Entrepreneurs, and Investors: In order to increase the impact of national lab-developed technology, today, the Department of Energy (DOE) is announcing that it will structure licensing agreements that enable qualified partners to use energy or water savings, attributable to innovations, as deductions from certain-royalty fees at participating DOE labs. DOE will hold a Lab-Investor Knowledge Series on water innovation, in which investors and labs meet to discuss existing intellectual property, market and investment needs, and partnership opportunities to tap into lab-developed water technology. Finally, DOE will identify and publish a list of water-related national lab patents that have the potential to overcome the challenges outlined in DOE’s Water-Energy Nexus: Challenges and Opportunities report released in 2014.
- Leveraging International Water Technology Expertise: Also today, the United States and the Kingdom of the Netherlands are announcing the intention to create a new water innovation research partnership via the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO). This partnership will help foster global collaboration for water research and innovation, and create new solutions to water resource management and water processing. The aim is to promote collaboration between researchers in the United States with their colleagues in the Netherlands. This partnership is seeking to expand to additional countries over the coming year.
- Transforming Desalination into a Cost-Effective Global Solution: Last year, as part of a long-term water strategy, the White House set cost reduction and energy efficiency targets for desalination to catalyze an innovative response to water supply risk. Today, XPRIZE, a non-profit organization that designs and manages incentive competitions to drive radical technological breakthroughs, is announcing its intent to launch a prize to bring desalination to price and energy cost parity with the approximate cost of potable water today. These targets were set in last year’s White House Report, and focus on increasing efficiency, preventing unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions, and reducing costs of desalinated water.
- Taking U.S. Leadership on Research and Development, Abroad: Today, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is announcing a new partnership with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization to take new steps to ensure that domestic agricultural R&D outcomes can be easily accessed and utilized by international partners.
There are a number of barriers for U.S. companies to expand their portfolios for water and agriculture technologies abroad, especially for use in the developing world. The U.S. Government is announcing two tools to help better mobilize financing as a tool for development in the face of water supply and food security risks:
- Identify Institutional Barriers to Catalyze Investment in Water Technology: Today, the Department of Commerce is announcing the development of a strategy with key private sector leaders to open markets for U.S. small businesses, entrepreneurs, and investors, and meet water technology demands in developing countries in a way that promotes U.S. technological innovation and jobs. Upon the strategy’s completion by 2018, the Department of Commerce, along with the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA), Agency for International Development (USAID), and Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), will promptly develop a strategy to assess and implement policies and programs to unlock these growing markets for the U.S. private sector.
- Enabling Domestic Technology Leaders to Invest Abroad: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Commerce are working with U.S.-based water clusters – a regional grouping of business, government, and research institutions focused on innovative technologies – to identify opportunities to reduce the barriers of piloting and deploying water technologies in developing countries. In particular, this work will focus on solutions from innovation hubs in the western part of the United States, which address water scarcity issues relevant to parts of sub-Saharan Africa.
Data and Technical Assistance
The United States has pioneered solutions to address water and food security that include satellite data to track and predict drought and on-the-ground technical assistance to inform and advise farmers on the impacts of climate change. These investments from the U.S. Government provide the information and tools needed to mitigate global risks to water and food, securing our economic growth at home and protecting our national security interests by promoting stability abroad. Today, the U.S. Government is announcing the following:
- As part of its $66 million compact with Cabo Verde, which aims to reform the land sector and improve water services in the water-scarce West African island nation, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) is partnering with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to support the country’s effort to establish a water sector funding facility, based on the financing mechanism of EPA’s State Revolving Funds (SRFs) program. This initiative will assist water service providers and raise local capacity to tackle the need for clean, affordable water. The partnership will advance MCC’s future work in operationalizing water sector revolving funds in other countries where the agency has grant partnerships.
- The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the State Department will partner with the Inter-American Development Bank’s AgroLAC initiative in Central America to support government policies that promote climate change adaptation and mitigation in agriculture. This $10 million grant will use a collaborative approach to conserve natural landscapes and economically empower small-holder farmers and fishermen in Central America.
- USAID is announcing its plans to further expand SERVIR to two additional regions, serving countries in Asia and South America. USAID and NASA launched SERVIR-West Africa this summer, joining three other SERVIR hubs now operating in developing regions of the world. SERVIR-West Africa joins a growing global community of scientists and decision-makers using data from space assets to tackle challenges exacerbated by the impacts of climate change. In addition to expanding the reach of existing capabilities, USAID will continue to provide technical assistance to empower local policymakers to translate this data into decision making.
- The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) International Research and Applications Project (IRAP) conducts interdisciplinary research and capacity building activities designed to enhance resilience through the integration of climate information in select regions around the world. IRAP, which has also been supported by USAID, is currently focused on the Caribbean and parts of Asia. NOAA will continue to partner with USAID on climate services for development, and, contingent on the availability of funding, will expand IRAP into additional regions, including Africa.
- In addition, SERVIR is improving access to NOAA forecast data sets allowing for real-time analysis and better weather forecasting—critical for farmers dependent on the next rainfall and for predicting the outcome of the next season.
- FEWS NET, a USAID program that provides analysis and policymaking tools to the world’s most food-insecure countries, plans to be fully global in scope by 2018. FEWS NET will be able to provide USAID and partners with data and analysis of food insecurity in any developing country around the world, a critical tool in predicting instability and planning for humanitarian crises.
Private Sector Leadership
The United States private sector has been a key partner and leader in addressing water, agriculture, and food security issues exacerbated by the impacts of climate change. Today, key partners from the private sector are announcing new actions.
- S&P Global Ratings has released its Green Finance Scaling Up To Meet The Climate Challenge report outlining that businesses and financial markets are already beginning to plan towards a low-carbon future. This response as well as the need for further investment is coupled with a substantial growth in the green bond market, which the report finds has issuances already up 50 percent in 2016 from last year’s total.
- CDP (formerly known as the Carbon Disclosure Project) has released its flagship 2016 Global Water Report, Thirsty Business: Why water is vital to climate action. The report summarizes and analyzes the disclosures made by 607 companies in response to CDP’s investor-backed request for water information in 2016, and provides a water score for each company that can be used as a holistic metric by investors, procurement teams, and other stakeholders, to drive action towards a more water-secure world.
- Today, an additional 800-plus supplier companies and their customers will receive a water score from CDP, allowing the purchasing organizations to understand key data including the water-related risks in their supply chain, potential collaborative opportunities with their suppliers, and product water intensity. This follows last month’s announcement of a new standard for climate-resilient water bonds, developed by a consortium convened by the Climate Bonds Initiative that included Ceres, the Alliance for Global Water Adaptation (AGWA), CDP, and the World Resources Institute (WRI). The new standard, or “Water Climate Bonds Criteria,” provides investors with a science-based screening process to evaluate bond investments earmarked for financing sustainable water-based infrastructure projects.
- Today, IBM is announcing its commitment to apply its cognitive solutions and cloud platform capabilities—including through its Watson platform—in the service of water and climate change, including through H2infO.
- GoodCompany Ventures is launching a $1 million accelerator today for entrepreneurs with innovations that can enhance the resilience of global food and water systems against climate threats. Their rigorous, three-month program will be augmented by market and technical expertise from key U.S. business partners to refine entrepreneurs’ business models into scalable enterprises that deliver practical impact.