UK must move beyond carbon cuts to stay competitive

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain needs to focus on more than just carbon dioxide emission cuts and manage its water, waste and food resources better to remain competitive, a report by the Aldersgate Group said on Monday.

Graffiti art is seen on a wall next to the Regent's Canal, in Camden in London December 22, 2009. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

The group is a coalition of businesses, non-governmental organisations, think-tanks and individuals.

In a report to the government, it said businesses could save 6.4 billion pounds a year by the improved management of energy, water, food and waste resources.

“There is understandably a focus on carbon in policy making at the moment. However, there are equally pressing resource demands across many areas of the economy which need to be addressed,” said John Harman, former chairman of the Environment Agency and lead author of the report.

“We cannot rely on the market to act in time to anticipate constraints in natural resource stocks, we have to act in advance.”

Water resources are already under pressure in many parts of Britain but the effects of climate change and an increase in population will put greater pressure on water supplies.

The government should be introducing stronger incentives to reward water companies who reduce the amount of water they provide, water reduction targets, revised pricing mechanisms, educating consumers about water usage, and driving forward innovation in water treatment technology.

The area of land and water available to produce the resources of one person is currently 2.1 global hectares (gha). Current demand for these resources is 5.2 gha -- twice the world average, according to the WWF.

Increasing population levels and biofuel generation will further squeeze the amount of land available for food production.

The government needs to set targets for reducing food waste, encourage renewable energy generation from waste using fiscal incentives and encourage farmers to use outputs from food waste processing as bio-fertilisers where safe to do so.

Reducing food waste after purchase can be helped by packaging innovations, while the food industry should give clear advice on product storage and use and clearer date labelling.

Government policy to manage the flow of scrap materials need to be better targeted and more strictly implemented, the report said. The UK is losing 450 million pounds a year by landfilling steel and aluminium.

The report suggested the government ban the landfill of metals or products with more than 20 percent metal content by 2011, define some metals as endangered and encourage the collection rather than dispersal of vulnerable supply metals in the waste stream.

Working with industrial sectors to substitute materials with other alternatives could help avoid unnecessary metals waste.

Reporting by Nina Chestney; Editing by William Hardy