A secure and resilient economy: Does the UK need an Office for Resource Management?
With the UK lagging behind other industrialised nations on resource security and productivity, several influential lobbies and think-tanks have called for a dedicated office to tackle the problem.
A report released today by the Circular Economy Task Force calls for the establishment of a National Resources Council, while EEF and Friends of the Earth are among those calling for an Office for Resource Management.
The need for a dedicated body is being made ever-more pressing by volatile resource prices and increased competition for dwindling supplies, but the UK has yet to carry out a comprehensive review of its exposure to risk.
Indeed different government departments are often pulling in opposite directions on resource policy - as demonstrated by the Department for Communities and Local Government's (CLG) support for weekly rubbish collections, undermining Defra's efforts to reach a 50% recycling target.
A National Resources Council - supported by the Green Alliance and its Circular Economy Task Force - would theoretically strengthen the government's ability to respond to resource supply threats and help businesses boost productivity.
Any overhaul would start with a major review of resource risks to the UK. This would determine where vital gaps in knowledge exist and would develop the framework for future action.
Jonny Hazell, author of the report, said: "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."
On 12 March, EEF, the Insititute for Civil Enginers, and Friends of the Earth will launch their own report, calling for a similar body; an Office for Resource Management.
This body - also supported by the APSRG - would act as a co-ordinator, convenor and information centre, helping companies from the breadth of the supply chain.
The risks that must be addressed:
1) Resource price volatility is at a historic high: Between 2005 and 2012 volatility was three times the 1980-2004 average. Resource costs typically account for 40% of European manufacturers' total cost base. High food and energy prices contributed to falling real wages between 2010 and 2014, whilst the recent oil price crash has led to redundancies in both North Sea extraction and recycled plastics suppliers.
2) Global competition for resources is rising: Demand for metals is expected to increase 250% between 2005 and 2030, and cereals consumption is expected to rise from 1.9 billion tonnes in 2000 to 2.7 billion in 2030, an increase of over 40%.
3) Environmental limits rule out simply expanding supply: Research by ASDA revealed that 95% of its fresh produce supplies are at risk from climate change, largely driven by changes in water availability; and water crises were considered the third greatest risk in the 2014 Global Risks report from the World Economic Forum.