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Effective natural resources management for sustainable and inclusive growth

Written by Dirk Willem te Velde

By 2030 demand for food, water and energy is expected to rise by 30-40%. Population growth, together with a growing middle class in emerging and developing nations, will put worldwide food production and security under extreme pressure. In the context of increasing resource scarcity and climate change, effective natural resources management is ripe for a major development policy discussion, and the theme of the next European Report on Development (ERD) plans to research this issue with the objective of presenting a report on effective natural resources management for sustainable and inclusive growth in the run up to the next RIO+20 Earth Summit in 2012.

Throughout the world, humanity is putting unsustainable pressure on natural resources and this manifests itself in new challenges and opportunities for developing countries. Water, energy and land are intimately connected. For example, producing more food needs more water and more energy, as well as more land, and developing countries are a frequent target for investment in land for agricultural production. Trying to tackle climate change by producing bio-fuels adds to pressure on land and water. None of us can escape the consequences of the impending resource crisis.

Dr Dirk Willem te Velde, Head of Programme International Economics in Development Group at the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) said:

“The policy challenge ERD 2012 will tackle is how developing countries, and the poorest people within them, can manage the challenges and seize the new opportunities in the water-energy-land nexus framed by resource scarcity and climate change.”

At a meeting on 6 April 2011 in Brussels around 80 eminent academics and high-level policy makers from Europe and the South met to discuss this and what the guiding principles for ERD 2012 should be. The following overarching question discussed at the meeting was:

What does the evidence tell us about the appropriate roles of the public and private sector, and their interactions, in managing natural resources for inclusive and sustainable growth in the context of increased scarcity and climate change?

To put this question into a sharper focus, ERD 2012 will be divided into three main parts:

1.    Context, concepts and frameworks: with attention on the land-water-energy nexus, including such issues as resource-efficient production, water access for productive uses, threats to food security, land acquisitions, and bio-fuels.

2.    Case studies: to illustrate resource scarcity, the major transitions outlined under the land-water-energy nexus, as well as the move towards a global low-carbon world by promoting energy efficiency and renewable energy.

3.    Policy implications: pulling together evidence and trends from the case studies that outline best practices and roles for the private sector and options for public-sector engagement, from concrete regulations/subsidies/taxes and punitive steps, to cooperative initiatives including public-private partnerships leading to better natural resource management.

Commenting on the day’s proceedings, Dr Imme Scholz, Senior Researcher on ERD 2012 and Deputy Director of the German Development Institute/ Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE) said:

“A monumental rethink is needed on how we currently manage the earth’s resources. And this needs to be done with the development dimension firmly in the picture, as many of these resources are located in developing countries and subject to competing interests and uses by a wide range of different actors.” 

On the importance of the land-water-energy nexus, Dr James Mackie, Senior Researcher on ERD 2012 and Head of Programme Development Policy & International Relations at the European Centre for Development Policy Management (EDCPM) said: 

“The nexus between land, water and energy is fundamental to production processes in developing countries and yet with growing scarcity and the uncertainties brought by climate change we need to urgently adapt the way we think about and use these resources that are often taken for granted, so as to ensure that they are used efficiently and that all stakeholders continue to have adequate access.”

In conclusion, ODI’s Dr Dirk Willem te Velde who is the ERD 2012 Team Leader said:

“In order to ensure that the new context for natural resource management leads to the best possible contribution for inclusive and sustainable growth in developing countries, and that natural resources are managed equitably and sustainably for a better future, businesses need to innovate and improve resource efficiency beyond national regulation whilst governance frameworks need continuous upgrading through more effective institutions, better rules and incentives, well-defined property rights, better managed state-business relationships and better rent management. We would like to explore how the EU, as the largest development actor and a crucial investor and trading partner for developing countries, can help developing countries prepare for the challenges.”

For more information, visit the European Report on Development 2012 project page.