Conservative MPs call for resource efficiency
Senior Conservative MPs, including MP for Richmond Zac Goldsmith, have joined calls for Britain to become more resource efficient if it is to maintain its ‘status and competitiveness in the global economy’.
Independent think tank Green Alliance today (29 September) issued a new pamphlet reflecting the views of its Green Conservatism advisory group, which is made up of ‘both independent experts and individuals involved in the Conservative party’, regarding how Britain can maintain a ‘resilient economy’.
Released as part of Green Alliance's Green Roots programme, which explores environmental challenges from the perspectives of the three main political traditions in the UK, the pamphlet adds to the 'Green social democracy: building a public mandate for infrastructure' report, which was published last week, while a publication from the Green liberalism project will follow.
The ‘Green conservatism: Better resource productivity for a resilient economy’ pamphlet outlines concerns that Britain is now more exposed than some economies to fluctuations in global resource prices.
Indeed, it highlights that between 2003 and 2013, world fuel prices rose four fold, metal prices trebled and food prices roughly doubled, all of which has had a ‘significant’ impact on the UK’s economy and cost of living.
As such, the pamphlet suggests that the UK can ‘maintain an open economy, tackle environmental impacts and be more resilient if it addresses resource productivity’.
To do this, the group advises government to ‘take resource resilience more seriously’ and suggests that steps to ‘better resource recovery, remanufacturing and mission-led innovation can reduce the UK’s dependence on virgin materials, lower input prices and increase the strength of UK-based business supply chains’.
Specifically, it advises government to:
- create a new Commission on Resource Responsibility to ‘actively monitor resource risks, identify where the UK is vulnerable and outline the options available to address these risks’ (this echoes calls from the Institute of Civil Engineers and the EEF for the creation of a new Office for Resource Management within government);
- improve regulation, such as the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directive, to ensure reuse is promoted over recycling (as also suggested by the 2020 Conservatives Group);
- ensure incentives for remanufacturing are created through public procurement; and
- take ‘new steps’ to support entrepreneurs with ‘mission-led innovation policy, to create the new technologies and start-ups that the UK and the rest of the world needs to cope with resource volatility’.
‘The right thing to do for the environment, business and national security’
Speaking after the release of the pamphlet, the Patron of Green Alliance’s Green Conservatism project, Lord Howard, said: “Britain is a trading nation and has benefitted greatly from globalisation. But can we continue to do so while simultaneously contributing to the mitigation of global warming and addressing resource constraints? This pamphlet provides some imaginative ways in which this can be achieved. I commend it as a constructive addition to the debate.”
Dan Byles, MP for North Warwickshire, commented that ‘strengthening’ the UK’s understanding and management of its natural resource use and dependency is “not only the right thing to do for the environment, but for business and national security too”, while MP for Richmond Zac Goldsmith added: “there is no responsible alternative to becoming more efficient with the resources we use”.
He added: “This will be a defining challenge, and those companies and nations that fail to meet it will be left at a huge disadvantage.”
European resource productivity target
The issue of resource efficiency and productivity has frequently hit headlines in recent months, with the outgoing European Commissioner for the Environment Janez Potočnik proposing earlier this month to set a non-binding European resource efficiency target measured through ‘resource productivity’.
Speaking to the Environment Committee of the European Parliament on 3 September, Potočnik said that, based on current policies, by 2030, resource productivity would be ‘around 15 per cent’ higher than today (as businesses improve their efficiency in response to rising resource input prices), but that if this were boosted to 30 per cent (as recommended by the European Resource Efficiency Platform) the EU’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) would rise by up to three per cent and create around two million more jobs.
As such, he suggested the EC introduce a resource productivity target to “ensure that the links between environment and growth and jobs are better exploited in the Europe 2020 Strategy and its governance process”. (However, Potočnik suggested that target be ‘non-binding’, to leave member states “free to set their own individual objectives and decide on an optimal policy mix to achieve them”.)
Read the ‘Green conservatism: Better resource productivity for a resilient economy’ pamphlet or find out more about the EC’s proposals to create a circular economy.