Advancing the Implementation of SDGs in Brazil by Integrating Water-Energy Nexus and Legal Principles for Better Governance

Priscila Carvalho, Catalina Spataru


The close relationship between water, energy and sustainable development has been on the international political radar for some time. The multiple targets contained in the newly developed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) often crosscut and refer to more than one sustainable goal, suggesting the need to consider the potential for synergies and analyse the nature and extent of trade-offs. SDGs subscribe Brazil to new action targets that explicitly crosscut and refer to multiple goals and resources (e.g., water, energy). Current work on indicators concluded Brazil should consider recognising and forging connections between goals but lacked to consider any synergies between water and energy (SDG6, SDG7). However, a challenge is that energy and water in Brazil are dependent and serve as input of each other but follow two different management approaches: electricity is centrally governed by the federal government (taking a top-down approach), while the water sector is polycentric (following a bottom-up approach). Such institutional and administrative differences create the potential for tensions in drawing these sectors together according to the principle of integration, in order to create an integrated and holistic approach to policy making, decision making and functional operation of the sectors. This potential for disconnection also leads to serious instances of environmental injustices. This study contributes to existing studies with a normative framework (sustainable development) from which to derive further sense of the relationship between water and energy; and provides the legal tools that informs the values (legal principles), which will support the development of ethical nexus regimes, so that the negotiation of outcomes between more coherent water and energy policies also promote fairness within their regimes.

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