Our Programmes



Sign up to our newsletter.

Follow ODI

Confront scarcity now or pay later

Written by Dirk Willem te Velde

Press Release

Politicians globally must confront growing scarcity of natural resources in order to enable a transformation towards inclusive and sustainable growth over the coming decades concludes the team leader of a major new European Commission report, led by the Overseas Development Institute, in co-ordination with DIE and ECDPM.

Launched today in Brussels the 2012 European Report on Development (ERD) highlights predicted increases in the scarcity of natural resources -  with demand for water and energy expected to rise by 40% and demand for food by 50% before we reach 2030. Unless action is taken to confront these pressures, there will be considerable costs and missed opportunities. Environmental stresses (e.g. in water) affect women and girls disproportionally, lack of energy services is a binding constraint to economic growth, and the poorest are frequent losers from large scale land deals.

It introduces the concept of the water, energy and land nexus (the WEL nexus) as crucial to tackling these challenges in an integrated way.

The report highlights a four pronged approach towards achieving a growth path that is socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable:

  • Demand management  - reducing the environmental footprint of consumption, aiming to increase inclusive growth with fewer natural resources
  • Increased quality and quantity of supply of resources such as soil, renewable energy and water
  • Greater resource efficiency – promoting innovation in sustainable agriculture and renewable energy
  • Improved resilience  - minimising the negative impact on the poorest for example by better and more transparent land deals

ODI’s Dr Dirk Willem te Velde, Team leader of the 2012 ERD said:

“Whilst global income poverty halved between 1990 and 2010, there are still close to a billon undernourished people, the same as 40 years ago. How can we feed 9.3 billion people sustainably by 2050? How can our planet deal with an expected increase by half in the amount of water, food and energy we consume over the next 20 years? How can we protect the poorest and most vulnerable countries and people that are frequent losers from the considerable environmental pressures on the planet’s resource? What we have established is that countries need to avoid policy making in silos and stimulate integrated thinking that promotes the management of water, energy and land (WEL) as part of a WEL-nexus."

 The solution must include public and private actors according to Dr te Velde:

“The public sector co-ordinates, regulates and taxes and spends. It needs leadership, capacities and the right political incentives to set economies onto a transformative path along the four pronged approach. The private sector dependent on quality natural resources will increasingly see the value in providing access to resources and in making their business models more sustainable.”

There is an important role for the EU to support the poorest countries, Dr te Velde said:

“The EU (European Commission and Member States) should consider step-changes in the implementation of Policy Coherence for Development, by using the full range of internal and external policies, including global engagement and development co-operation, to support the poorest countries in their transitions towards inclusive and sustainable growth. The EU, as the largest aid donor and major trade and investment partner for developing countries, has a lot to offer as long as it acts coherently and in an integrated manner itself.”

European Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs said:

"This report is particularly relevant and timely ahead of the UN Rio+20 conference and in the International Year for Sustainable Energy for All. Water, energy and land are crucial resources for development and human well-being and scarcity cannot be overcome by piecemeal actions. Agriculture and energy are already among the Commission's development priorities as set out in our Agenda for Change, and will form a key part of our effort to boost the impact and effectiveness of EU development policy."