Resource Use

Government should create 'Office for Resource Risk'

An Office for Resource Risk should be created to assess and manage resource risks to the economy, according to a report by UK environmental groups.

The statement was made in the new ‘Greener Britain’ report, which has been published today (1 September) by a coalition of charities including the National Trust, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), Greenpeace, the Wildlife Trusts and Friends of the Earth.

‘Helping to rebuild public confidence in government’

The coalition claims that a ‘prolonged recession and narrowly focused national debate have slowed progress towards a greener Britain’.

As such, it has released the Greener Britain report in response to the ‘hesitant approach of political leaders’, and identified ‘the priorities and practical proposals which the next government could implement’.

The group claims that its policies are not only ‘achievable’, but would also be popular ‘helping to rebuild public confidence in government’.

Resource risk

The report outlines seven major priorities that all political parties should focus on for the next election, including resource and energy use, communities and protecting nature.

One of the main priorities identified in the report is to act on the ‘resource price shock’.

The report reads: ‘The UK, along with the rest of the developed world, is using more than its share of global resources, many of which are also becoming more costly and are environmentally damaging to extract.

‘As a result, Britain is experiencing resource price shocks that are raising our cost of living, threatening our economic stability and creating environmental harm around the world, and incentivising new resource extraction in fragile habitats. Over the past decade, world resource prices have risen sharply...

‘The only reliable way to protect ourselves against resource price shocks is to address the risks from climate change whilst reducing natural resource use and increasing the reuse of products and materials already in the economy.’

Specifically, the group suggests:

  • setting targets to reduce the country’s consumption of finite natural resources and increase resource efficiency;
  • requiring online retailers to take back waste electrical and electronic equipment when delivering new products;
  • setting up a local authority challenge fund to develop new infrastructure for recovering resources from the waste stream;
  • enforcing a landfill ban for food waste, with policies to incentivise its collection and reuse as compost or fuel for anaerobic digestion;
  • creating an Office for Resource Risk to provide ‘independent assessments to government and business on how to respond to risks in specific resource markets’ and outline the market risks of climate change; and
  • incentivising lower electricity demand through a market for ‘negawatts’, power saved through energy efficiency. It claims that the UK could avoid building 800MW power stations if it followed the US’s example.

Some of the other goals and proposals for ’greening’ the country, include:

  • setting a 2030 power decarbonisation target of 50 grammes of carbon dioxide per kilowatt hour;
  • creating a million square kilometre southern Atlantic reserve and ‘ensuring an ecologically coherent network of Marine Protected areas in UK seas’;
  • addressing the park funding crisis with a ‘future parks’ innovation process;
  • setting a ‘stretch target’ for improving home energy performance and improving incentives for energy saving;
  • giving communities more control through the introduction of a new Sustainable Neighbourhoods Deal and giving all major UK cities London’s transport powers and funding.

“A robust response to the serious threat of climate change”

Andy Atkins, Executive Director at Friends of the Earth, said: “These proposals should give all the major parties pause to think carefully about their environmental agenda ahead of the next general election – they must respond both to the major challenges we face and the corresponding public call for stronger action.

“The Greener Britain priorities are a foundation for parties to build a robust response to the serious threat of climate change and the decline of our natural world.”

Dr Mike Clarke, Chief Executive of the RSPB, added: “Manifestos are sometimes important for their differences, but it’s when they’re the same that they’re really powerful, especially for issues like the environment that affect us in so many ways; I hope that all parties will be able to adopt these practical proposals for a greener Britain.”

Matthew Spencer, Director of Green Alliance, also commented, saying: “The proposals in this report offer all parties constructive ways to make Britain stronger and greener in a changing world. Their manifestos need to demonstrate that they have overcome the timidity of this parliament and have found their voice on the environment.”

Read the Greener Britain report.