Integrated analysis of climate change, land-use, energy and water strategies


Land, energy and water are our most precious resources, but the manner and extent to which they are exploited contributes to climate change. Meanwhile, the systems that provide these resources are themselves highly vulnerable to changes in climate. Efficient resource management is therefore of great importance, both for mitigation and for adaptation purposes. We postulate that the lack of integration in resource assessments and policy-making leads to inconsistent strategies and inefficient use of resources. We present CLEWs (climate, land-use, energy and water strategies), a new paradigm for resource assessments that we believe can help to remedy some of these shortcomings.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: The CLEWS framework.
Figure 2: The impact of transforming two sugar-processing plants to produce second-generation ethanol in Mauritius (projections for 2030).
Figure 3: Changes in overall water withdrawals for selected integrated CLEW scenarios in Mauritius.
Figure 4: Predicted impact of climate change on water availability in Mauritius, water-related energy consumption and GHG emissions (predictions for 2030).


  1. 1

    Deininger, K. & Byerlee, D. Rising Global Interest in Farmland: Can it Yield Sustainable and Equitable Benefits? (World Bank, 2011).

    Google Scholar 

  2. 2

    Taylor, M. & Bending, T. Increasing Commercial Pressure on Land: Building A Coordinated Response (International Land Coalition, 2009).

    Google Scholar 

  3. 3

    Molden, D. (ed.) Water for Food, Water for Life: A Comprehensive Assessment of Water Management in Agriculture (Earthscan/IWMI, 2007).

    Google Scholar 

  4. 4

    International Energy Agency World Energy Outlook (IEA/OECD, 2011).

  5. 5

    Water for People, Water for Life (UNESCO-WWAP/Berghahn, 2003).

  6. 6

    Agricultural Outlook (OECD/ FAO, 2010).

  7. 7

    Biofuels and Food Security IIASA Land Use Change and Agriculture Program Study (IIASA/OFID, 2009).

  8. 8

    Wood, C. Environmental Impact Assessment: A Comparative Review 2nd edn (Prentice Hall, 2002).

    Google Scholar 

  9. 9

    Hellegers, P. et al. Interactions between water, energy, food and environment: Evolving perspectives and policy issues. Water Policy 10, 1–10 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10

    World Economic and Social Survey: The Great Green Technological Transformation (UNDESA, 2011).

  11. 11

    Khan, S. & Hanjra, M. A. Footprints of water and energy inputs in food production. Food Policy 34, 130–140 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12

    Mushtaq, S. et al. Energy and water tradeoffs in enhancing food security: A selective international assessment. Energy Policy 37, 3635–3644 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13

    Rothausen, S. G. S. A. & Conway, D. Greenhouse-gas emissions from energy use in the water sector. Nature Clim. Change 1, 220–223 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14

    Van Vuuren, D. P. et al. Future bio-energy potential under various natural constraints. Energy Policy 37, 4220–4230 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15

    Stehfest, E. et al. Climate benefits of changing diet. Climatic Change 95, 83–102 (2009).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  16. 16

    Rothausen, S. & Conway, D. Greenhouse gas emissions from energy use in the water sector. Nature Clim. Change 1, 210–219 (2011).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  17. 17

    Letourneau, A. et al. A land-use systems approach to represent land-use dynamics at continental and global scales. Environ. Model. Software 33, 61–79 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. 18

    Pollitt, H. et al. A Scoping Study on the Macroeconomic View of Sustainability (Cambridge Econometrics/Sustainable Europe Research Institute, 2010); available via

    Google Scholar 

  19. 19

    Nuclear Technology Review 2009 Annex VI (IAEA, 2009); available at

  20. 20

    Searchinger, T. et al. Use of US croplands for biofuels increases greenhouse gases through emissions from land-use change. Science 319, 1238–1240 (2008).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  21. 21

    Fargione, J. et al. Land clearing and the biofuel carbon debt. Science 319, 1235–1238 (2008).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  22. 22

    Agenda 21: Earth Summit. The United Nations Programme of Action from Rio (UN, 1993); available via

  23. 23

    Ayensu, E. et al. International ecosystem assessment. Science 22, 685–686 (1999).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. 24

    Fiksel, J. Sustainability and resilience: Toward a systems approach. Sust. Sci. Practice Policy 2, 14–21 (2006).

    Google Scholar 

  25. 25

    Bazilian, M. et al. Considering the energy, water and food nexus: Towards an integrated modelling approach. Energy Policy 39, 7896–7906 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. 26

    Statement by Ambassador Milan J. N. Meetarbhan (Permanent Missions of the Republic of Mauritius to the UN, 2011); available via

  27. 27

    SIWI in Rio. Water Food and Energy Nexus: A Fundament for Green Economy (Stockholm International Water Institute. Available at

  28. 28

    Sustainable Energy, Food, Water & Oceans (UN, 2012); available via

  29. 29

    Launch of Sustainable Development for the 21st Century report. Available via (UNDESA, 2012).

  30. 30

    Address by His Excellency Devanand Virahsawmy, Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development of Mauritius (UN, 2012); available via

  31. 31

    The State of the World's Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (FAO, 1997).

  32. 32

    Rockström, J. et al. A safe operating space for humanity. Nature 461, 472–475 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. 33

    Global Agro-ecological Zones GAEZ v3.0 (IIASA/ FAO, 2012); available via

  34. 34

    Long-Term Energy Strategy 2009–2025 (Government of Mauritius, 2009).

  35. 35

  36. 36

  37. 37

  38. 38

  39. 39

  40. 40

    IPCC Special Report on Emissions Scenarios (eds Nakicenovic, N. & Swart, R.) (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2000); available at

  41. 41

    Evans, J. CORDEX — An international climate downscaling initiative. Proc. 19th Intl Congr. Modelling and Simulation (2011); available via

    Google Scholar 

  42. 42

    Sustainable Development in the 21st Century (UNDESA, 2012); available via

  43. 43

    Aziz, E. et al. Global Action on Climate Change in Agriculture: Linkages to Food Security, Markets and Trade Policies in Developing Countries (FAO, 2011) available via

    Google Scholar 

  44. 44

    Climate-Smart Agriculture. Managing Ecosystems for Sustainable Livelihood (FAO, 2012); available via

  45. 45

    Turral, H. et al. Climate Change, Water and Food Security. FAO Water Report No. 36 (FAO, 2011); available via

    Google Scholar 

  46. 46

    Save and Grow. A Policymaker's Guide to the Sustainable Intensification of Smallholder Crop Production (FAO, 2011); available at

  47. 47

    The State of the World's Land and Water Resources for Food and Agriculture (SOLAW). Managing Systems at Risk (FAO/Earthscan, 2011); available at

  48. 48

    Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture. Contributing to Food Security and Sustainability in a Changing World (Platform for Agrobiodiversity Research, FAO, 2011); available via

  49. 49

    Bioenergy and Food Security. The BEFS Analytica Framework Environmental and Natural Resources Management Working Paper No. 16 (FAO, 2010); available via

  50. 50

    FAO Global Agro-Ecological Zoning; available at

  51. 51

    FAO Modelling System for Agricultural Impacts of Climate Change (MOSAICC); available at

  52. 52

    FAO's Framework Programme on Climate Change Adaptation (FAO-Adapt); available at

  53. 53

    AquaCrop. The FAO crop-model to simulate yield response to water; available at

  54. 54

    Integrated Policy and Assessment in Sustainable Transport Development (UNESCAP, 2006); available via

  55. 55

    Good Practice Guidance on Applying Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) in Development Cooperation (OECD, 2006).

Download references


We thank D. le Blanc (UNDESA) for insight and encouragement in problems that fall outside the scope of traditional planning approaches, and for his input to discussions and fora; Ø. Vessia (EC) for work on precursor efforts to this work; M. Radka (UNEP); L. Langlois (independent consultant); and O. Broad (KTH). The views and perspectives expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the UN, associated UN Agencies or their senior management.

Author information




The experiments were conceived and designed by M.H., S.H. and H.R. The entire endeavour was overseen by M.H. The modelling experiments themselves (focusing on integration) were undertaken by M.H., M.W., S.H., C.Y. and G.F. Data analysis, and meta-data creation, were undertaken by S.H., M.W., T.A., C.Y. and G.F. Material and analysis tools were provided by C.Y. who developed the Mauritius WEAP model with S.H. M.W. developed the Mauritius LEAP model. G.F., H.V. and D.W. developed and advanced the AEZ model generally and specifically applied it to the case of Mauritius. A.M. and P.S. provided methodologies that were used to analyse crop–water–land interrelations. I.R. collected great volumes of base data needed to calibrate the models. R.R. provided an analysis of the tools and gaps in the integrated assessment space. M.H., H.R., T.A., D.G., M.B., R.R., P.S. and R.S. drafted sections of the paper.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Mark Howells or Sebastian Hermann.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

1. The CLEWs Framework and scenarios for Mauritius (PDF 724 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Howells, M., Hermann, S., Welsch, M. et al. Integrated analysis of climate change, land-use, energy and water strategies. Nature Clim Change 3, 621–626 (2013).

Download citation

Further reading


Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing