World Resources Forum Calls For Sustainability Through Efficiency

With human population expected to grow to a daunting nine billion people by 2050, creating a more sustainable type of economy is crucial to the preservation of adequate conditions for life on Earth as we know it.

We are already facing challenges that have manifested themselves in worldwide crises in financial systems, food supply and climate change.

In order to discuss the topic, earlier this week, over the course of two days (September 20 and 21), a group of 400 resource experts from more than 40 countries met in Davos, Switzerland, for the World Resources Forum (WRF).

During the meeting they called on governments, businesses and civil society to take immediate action to double the current level of resource productivity by 2020 and reach at least a fivefold increase by 2050.

The group suggested four main actions to achieve this goal. The first is the setting of quantitative targets to encourage consumers and business to engage in sustainable consumption and production.

The other line of action is the development and implementation of concrete roadmaps by national and international governments, along with clear plans for implementing legal frameworks and shifting fiscal pressure from labor to resources and pollution.

The group also said that radical change and ground-breaking innovations are needed in developing countries and emerging economies as resource efficiency is essential to eradicate poverty.

Finally, individuals need to be empowered to take action supported by an ethical framework that addresses both the environmental and social impacts of consumption.

The outcomes of WRF will be used as input for the preparatory process of the Rio +20 Earth Summit 2012. Participants agreed to review the progress at the next WRF, to be held between October 14 and 17, 2012 in Beijing, China.

Janez Potočnik, European Commissioner for the Environment, said we need to break out of what he calls a lock in to resource inefficient and unsustainable behavior. To do so, we need new technologies, business models and innovation.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) agrees and called for a new ‘green’ Industrial Revolution. It explained that in the last 100 years, resource use has increased eight times whereas economic growth grew by a factor of 23.

“The success of the multi-fold increase in labor productivity should now be 'copied' to double resource productivity”, said Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker, Co-Chair UNEP Resource Panel.

The group said that developing countries and emerging economies would benefit most from the link between resource efficiency and economic growth as natural resources play a key role in eradicating poverty.

“A shortage in resources such as land and water will lead to conflicts. Therefore, food, energy, water, land and labour are key target areas for resource efficiency policies. Resource efficiency will lead to lower costs, which will not only benefit the business world, but will also help to eradicate poverty”, said Alice Kaudia, Environment Secretary of Kenya.

To eradicate poverty we need technology transfer, access to resource-efficient technologies and financial support for facilitating such radical changes.

The researchers came up with a concept they call ‘green and circular economy’, one that results in improved quality of life and a significant reduction of resource inefficiency. It decouples economic growth from resource consumption and continued resource ownership.

“An approach only focused on efficiency is insufficient: we need to move from eco-efficiency to eco-effectiveness. This means creating a better life by consuming less -a social innovation based on the circular economy of reusing, reducing and recycling”, said Tongji University Shanghai’s Dajian Zhu.

Image credit: WRF