Britain needs resource efficiency strategy, environmental think tank says

29th September 2014

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David Eynon

Britain is more exposed than other countries to fluctuations in resource prices and needs to take resource efficiency more seriously, according to the Green Alliance.

In a report published today, the think tank points out that other countries including China, the US, Germany, Korea and France have all developed resource risk mitigation plans or have integrated resource risks into their industrial strategies.

The UK, meanwhile, has no nationwide vision or programme to drive resource efficiency and there is very limited understanding of the UK’s exposure to resource shocks, the report states.

This is the despite the significant impact that price rises have had on the UK’s economy and cost of living, the Green Alliance warns. It reports that between 2003 and 2013 world fuel prices increased four fold, metal prices trebled and food prices roughly doubled.

Half the letters written by the governor of the Bank of England since 2003 cited imported price shocks as the primary cause of UK inflation, the think tank points out.

The government must take resource efficiency more seriously and create a commission on resource responsibility to actively monitor resource risks, identify where the UK is vulnerable and outline the options available to address the risks, it recommends.

Other recommendations in the report include improving regulation, such as the EU directive on waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) to ensure reuse is promoted over recycling, and encouraging remanufacturing through public procurement decisions.

Conservative MP for Richmond, Zac Goldsmith, who is an adviser to the alliance’s green conservatism project, said: “With the cost of resources sky rocketing in recent years, and no sign that trends will or can be reversed, there is no responsible alternative to becoming more efficient with the resources we use.

“This will be a defining challenge, and those companies and nations that fail to meet it will be left at a huge disadvantage.”

The report mirrors those outlined in a report by manufacturers’ organisation EEF in July. Senior climate and environment advisor at EEF Susanne Baker said: "While there is some interesting research under way in the UK, on the whole the government's approach to resource efficiency is patchy and uncoordinated.

"In comparison, countries like China, Japan, Germany, the USA and South Korea have recognised that the use of resources is a competitive issue and a potential threat to manufacturing and energy production and are taking substantive steps to enhance resource productivity and diversify supply.

"Unless we take greater heed of our resource vulnerabilities we risk undermining UK competitiveness," she said.

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