At first the recession saw a reduction in global emissions as industries around the world made cutbacks – however now, in a bid to survive, many companies are making cheaper, more environmentally damaging choices in order to reduce costs. This includes not seeking out alternative energy due to the cost of implementation, and simply cutting corners where possible. In a damming assessment of the global situation, EU Environmental Commissioner Janez Potočnik recently said that the current overuse and waste of valuable natural resources is threatening to produce a fresh economic crisis.
Potočnik associates the current economic crisis gripping the Eurozone with potential future crises that he believes will be driven by price spikes in key resources such as energy and raw materials. “It’s very difficult to imagine [lifting Europe out of recession] without growth, and very difficult to imagine growth without competitiveness, and very difficult to be competitive without resource efficiency.” He added that unless both consumers and businesses take action to use global resources more efficiently (including everything from water to food to energy), then their increasing scarcity and rising prices will drive up costs even further and reduce Europe’s standard of living.
“We have simply no choice. We have to use what we have more efficiently, or we will fail to compete. Resource efficiency is a real competitiveness issue for European companies.”
Of course, while the West has its problems, developing countries such as China and India are also working to build up their economies by consuming an ever-growing share of the world’s resources. Unfortunately current economic models used by businesses and governments have failed so far to take this rapid change into account – many business models are based on cheap, readily available resources and the inefficient use of raw materials and energy.
“This is an issue of competitiveness,” Potočnik said. “China is understanding that this is a megatrend. We can’t ignore it. If our current living standards are to be maintained, and the aspirations of developing countries satisfied, then the global economy will need to be changed drastically.” “If we want things to stay the same, things will have to change. This will be an enormous pressure on resources, which we are already overusing.”
With global protests still going around the world due to the state of the world’s economic markets and the distribution of wealth, it looks like some form of change may come. The questions that remain are whether it will come fast enough – and what will be the cost?
Via The Guardian