The European Report on Development 2011/2012 was launched in mid May 2012. It addresses the constraints on water, energy and land and considers how these resources can be managed to promote growth that is both socially inclusive and sustainable.
Close to one billion people in the world are undernourished, while 0.9 billion lack access to safe water and 1.5 billion have no source of electricity. At the same time, the context in which resources need to be managed is changing rapidly. Many life-supporting natural resources are becoming increasingly scarce. The European Report on Development (EDR) 2011/2012 addresses the constraints on water, energy and land and considers how these resources can be managed to promote growth that is both socially inclusive and sustainable. This is the third time that the Report has been published.
Considering close interrelations
A rising world population and global economic growth place new pressures on natural resources, the Report claims. The demand for energy and water is expected to grow by 40 percent and for food by 50 percent by 2030 compared to present levels. These pressures are exacerbated when solutions to resource constraints in one area place additional constraints on another. Expanding the provision of biofuels, for example, can contribute to pressures on both land and water. Countries pursuing food security at home have acquired land overseas, sometimes at the expense of access to land and water by existing communities. The report urges the international community to radically transform approaches to managing water, energy and land (WEL) in order to support inclusive and sustainable growth in the poorest developing countries. It involves institutional change and joint implementation by the public and private sectors.
The market alone cannot fix things
The poor are occasional winners but frequent losers in a resource-constrained world. They may find that prices are rising for essential but resource-intensive goods and services such as food and energy. And their employment opportunities may decline if growth is constrained by physical or economic shortages. However, these developments are not inevitable, and an alternative vision is possible, the authors of the Report believe. However, it requires that adjudicating between competing uses of resources and allocating resources between rich and poor should not be left to the market alone. The ERD argues that transformative action in a combination of four pillars is necessary:
- influencing demand patterns to reflect scarcity values (e.g. sustainable consumption and production by cutting waste and changing lifestyles), - improving the quantity and quality of supply (e.g. partnerships on renewable energy, soils, water storage through appropriate finance, regulation and knowledge sharing), - increasing efficiency (e.g. technology transfer, national innovation systems), - increasing resilience against shocks and benefits for the poorest (e.g. benefit-sharing, social protection, Corporate Social Responsibility, inclusive land policy).
The authors of the Report above all call for action in five areas:
1. Radically reduce the environmental footprint of consumption (especially, but not only, in developed countries such as the EU) to promote inclusive growth without increasing resource use.
2. Promote innovation to increase agricultural productivity to feed more than nine billion people sustainably by 2050 and scale up renewable energy technologies that help to deliver sustainable energy for all by 2030.
3. Establish or reform institutions for an integrated approach towards managing resources.
4. Push for an inclusive land policy to ensure access to land and water for the poorest and most vulnerable.
5. Price natural resources and services comprehensively and appropriately (e.g. using instruments such as payments for ecosystem services, PES), whilst safeguarding the welfare of the poorest.
This agenda should be reflected in the values and institutions of public and private sectors, the authors demand. The international community needs to establish the right governance structures and make available sufficient finance (using aid, innovative development financing and responsible foreign direct investment) to support the transformation towards inclusive and sustainable growth and human security, particularly in poor countries.
The European Report on Development “Confronting scarcity: Managing water, energy and land for inclusive and sustainable growth” was commissioned to the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), in partnership with the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM) and the German Development Institute (GDI/DIE). It is available for downloading in several languages.