Call for fresh approach to resource productivity

30th March 2023

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A new long-term environmental targets framework for England was published in 2022. The framework will support the delivery of a range of government priorities, including the Resources and Waste Strategy, which commit to doubling resource productivity by 2030.

Economic growth is intrinsically linked to greater resource use and greenhouse gas emissions. The way we currently use and dispose of materials and products is not sustainable. To meet our environmental targets, we must take a new approach to resource productivity that decouples economic growth from GDP. Doing so offers an opportunity to help the transition to a circular economy.

After consultation with members through webinars and workshops, IEMA has published a policy recommendations paper. For the government to create a robust resource productivity target, the paper recommends the following:

• The evaluation of resources should focus on the entire and extended lifecycle of products, from resource extraction to end-of-life treatment.

• Focusing efforts on decoupling resource use from GDP. This should be based on consumption and not solely on production.

• The target should be underpinned with ‘principles of green growth’ to enable the transition to a low-carbon circular economy through the use of sustainable materials to increase resource efficiency.

• Exploring alternative indicators that cover Pigouvian tax, Environmentally Adjusted Multifactor Productivity Coefficient, and an Index of Product Resource Efficiency to improve resource security and risk for key materials or sectors.

Defra published the Environmental Improvement Plan in January 2023. In this is a commitment to produce a new ‘maximising resources and minimising waste programme in England’.

A programme focused on resource efficiency is a positive step. However, a plan that only covers England will not unlock all the opportunities needed for a more circular and sustainable future.

The practicalities of how the programme will complement a new resource productivity target and interact with policies and initiatives in other jurisdictions are important considerations for the government going forward.

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