In a recent report, Chatham House warns of the spectre of resource insecurity. Demand from emerging economies and the operation of tight commodity markets is creating intensified resource stress. Whether or not resources are actually running out, the outlook is one of supply disruptions, volatile prices, accelerated environmental degradation and rising political tensions over resource access. We need better policies to make things better.
The report claims that the world remains only one or two bad harvests away from another global food crisis. Lower prices in the meantime may simply trigger over consumption, especially in the large and growing developing countries. It analyses the latest global trends in the production, trade and consumption of key raw materials and intermediate products and explores how defensive and offensive moves by governments and other stakeholders are creating the potential for disaster on top of existing weaknesses and uncertainties.
The report proposes a series of “critical interventions”, including new informal dialogues involving a group of significant producer and consumer countries to tackle resource price volatility and to improve confidence and coordination in increasingly integrated global resource markets.
This is the latest in a line of reports that point to worrying shortages if we go on as we are. On top of concerns about energy and climate change we now have to learn to live sustainably to live within the planet’s means. This is particularly important for the UK as we import much of our food, and the land is increasingly under threat from inappropriate development.