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Government urged to create a national security council for resources

Government urged to create a national security council for resources

The Circular Economy Task Force (CETF), convened by environmental think tank Green Alliance, is calling on the UK government to establish a national resources council to respond to resource supply threats.

The call comes in the ‘UK Governance for the 21st Century’ report, released today (2 March) by CETF, in light of the increasing risks posed to British business interests by ‘current government management of resource policy’.

The group – which comprises Boots, Kyocera Document Solutions, the Resource Association, Sinvestec, Unilever, Veolia, Viridor, and WRAP – argues that the UK is ‘lagging behind’ on action to improve resource security and productivity compared to other leading industrialised nations, such as the US, Germany and China, as there has been ‘no comprehensive review’ of the UK’s exposure to resource risks.

Further, CETF warns that as well as having no overriding strategy, several departments currently monitor waste and resources; the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign Office monitor causes of supply risk; the Treasury assesses threats to economic growth and stability; the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) co-ordinates innovation funding and supports existing and emergent sectors through its industrial strategies; the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) leads on how waste is collected; and the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) is responsible for resource management, waste and natural capital, and the underlying environmental drivers of resource risk.

It highlights that as well as the spread of responsibility, standardising a message on resource security has been compounded by the fact that different government departments are actually ‘pulling in different directions on resource policy’, as demonstrated by DCLG’s £250-million fund for weekly rubbish collections, which CETF argues undermined Defra efforts to reach a 50 per cent recycling target.

As such, it outlines the risks this opens up to businesses, and analyses the pros and cons of:

  • maintaining current government policy;
  • establishing a non-statutory office within a department;
  • establishing a stautory office of resource management;
  • creating a standing committee, such as a national resources council;
  • developing an independent commission on resource risk; and
  • creating a department for natural resources.

Government must address its out-dated resource policy’

Following detailed discussion the potential approaches, CETF concludes that setting up a national resources council would be the best institutional proposal.

This is the preferred route as it would:

  • strengthen the government’s ability to respond strategically to resource supply threats;
  • help businesses boost their competitiveness through increased productivity; and
  • help channel political concern about resource risks into clear cross-government action.

CETF states: ‘We consider that there is one combination which offers the best scope for developing an effective strategy and co-ordinating policy development across government: a National Resources Council supported by an independent commission on resource risk. The former would provide the necessary cross-departmental reach and high level political engagement to support effective policy development, and the latter would provide valuable expert advice, identifying where government support is needed and priorities for action…

‘The creation of a new institutional framework for resources within central government will support UK businesses and signal clearly that resource security is a political and economic priority for the UK.’

The group proposes that an immediate priority for the council should be to commission a major review of resource risks to the UK to determine where vital gaps in knowledge exist and help develop a framework for future action.

Jonny Hazell, author of the report, commented: “Calls for decisive political action on resources are growing. The next government must address the business and environmental risks of its out-dated resource policy. Political will has to be matched by effective governance capacity, and a new institution for resources within central government will signal that resource security is a political and economic priority for the UK.”

Ray Georgeson, Chief Executive of the Resource Association – a trade association for the reprocessing and recycling industries and their supply chain – added: “Disjointed and sometimes contradictory approaches to waste and resources from different government departments creates confusion and uncertainty for local authorities, resource management companies and investors alike.

“The report is a crucial contribution to the growing debate about governance and better coordination of resources policy. It is a live debate, and it is clear that maintenance of the status quo is an unpalatable option for the UK resources industry and for our country’s resource security.” 

Read the full ‘UK Governance for the 21st Century’ report.

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