The independent think tank Green Alliance says there has not been enough progress for the government’s 2018 resources and waste strategy.
Green Alliance furthers that the government has adopted strategies centred on minimising ‘individual high profile waste streams’, particularly plastic parts like microbeads, plastic bags and straws, as opposed to addressing the heart of the waste dilemma: overconsumption of resources.
A new report by Green Alliance, Targeting success: why the UK needs a new vision for resource use, declares that resource management is a ‘critical issue’ for the economy, and that the adverse effects of climate change cannot be tackled without diminishing overconsumption.
A legally binding 50 per cent by 2050 reduction target for consumption would give a clear indiciation of the UK’s intent to alleviate the ongoing threat of a climate catastrophe, whilst offering global guidance at this year’s UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow on 1 – 12 November 2021.
The report emphasises that resource consumption causes half of the world’s climate emissions and 90 per cent of ecological devastation. The UK’s management of resources – both renewable and finite – is double the rate that is held as sustainable.
It is estimated the UK consumes three times what the planet can sustainably provide [Global Footprint Network, 2017].
Despite this staggering statistic, overconsumption is ‘routinely overlooked’ in policies to decrease carbon emissions and preserve the environment, according to Green Alliance.
Libby Peake, head of resource policy at Green Alliance, comments: “Ministers need to stop clutching at plastic straws. The UK’s unsustainable resource use is bigger than that. An ambitious target is necessary to focus minds on reducing our consumption to sustainable levels, just like net zero has done for climate action.
“A legally binding 50 per cent by 2050 reduction target for consumption would provide a clear signal to other nations of the UK’s seriousness to act on this major global economic and environmental issue, and will provide global leadership on resources at this year’s international summits.”
Tackle resource dependency
The UK has secured a preeminent reputation for its path to reducing carbon emissions, thanks to a strict target setting and review method.
Before the United Nations Climate Conference in Glasgow and the G7 Summit in Cornwall, Green Alliance encourages the UK to continue influencing global strategies, with a commitment to decrease its own resource consumption in line with relevant statistics.
The UK must replicate its success in securing net zero and secure itself as the first major economy with a firm resolve to halve resource use.
This overarching objective would direct attention across the economy on the incentives, behaviours, business models, and physical and logistical infrastructure required for more useful resource management, as opposed to piecemeal reforms, states the report.
As businesses recuperate from the consequences of the pandemic, it maintains a ‘clear plan’ will embed confidence and a resolute plan will promote circular business patterns and allow cost savings from resource efficiency.
Dr Colin Church, chair of the Circular Economy Task Force and chief executive of the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining, said:
“Today’s report launch is a very useful reminder that, if we are going to meet our climate goals without doing even more damage to the planet in other ways, we really do need to focus on proper, responsible management of finite resources such as critical raw materials, from their extraction and production, to their use and how we deal with them at end of life.
“It would be fanciful to believe we can tackle climate change and biodiversity loss without a laser-like focus on how we manage resources.”
Dr Adam Read, external affairs director of SUEZ recycling and recovery UK and CIWM vice president said: “This report highlights one of the key failings of resource and waste management thinking, namely a lack of a simple yet overarching resource reduction target, as we have now for carbon emissions.
“Without reducing consumption and managing resources more efficiently, we cannot deliver on our climate change objectives, nor will we see the necessary leap in circular business models. For too long our policy landscape has been dominated by siloed thinking, targets and initiatives.
“SUEZ, and other resource and waste management companies, need greater clarity on targets and a roadmap that identifies when critical changes need to be delivered, so that we can invest in and build the necessary infrastructure, services and partnerships. We must not miss this opportunity to supercharge the circular economy agenda and put resource management at the heart of a green recovery.”
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