The world has been engulfed by the wrath of unsustainable use of resources. This has been caused by economies that rely on natural resource extractions that are extremely wasteful in generating value and wealth- a phenomenon that has caused climate change and widespread environmental degradation. Consequently, these menaces have brought negative impacts onto the well-being of the planet and its people. It is a situation that call for an urgent response by everyone.
We need to critically ask ourselves what the real meaning of resource efficiency and how we can ensure we achieve it.
The concept of decoupling
Resource efficiency involves decoupling economic growth from excessive resource use. Outcomes of productivity can increase incomes and growth while reducing the footprint of material consumption to increase circularity and human well-being.
Decoupling occurs in two parts. Relative decoupling occurs when environmental pressure grows at a slower rate than the economic activity that is causing it. Otherwise, environmental pressure declines while the economic activity continues to grow- a scenario referred to as absolute decoupling.
How can we maximize resource efficiency in our daily operation?
First, monitoring urban metabolism, which can be done with the help of local government, should be encouraged. First, local authorities must understand city inputs- such as biomaterials- and outputs- such as waste and emissions- and use them to develop resource efficiency strategies. Additionally, the relationship between gross domestic product and material flows, land use and emissions must be measured and targets set, while an account of negative externalities of various resources uses must be prioritized and priced in to provide economic incentives for sustainable choices.
Secondly, city planning defaults must be changed; ideally, the city should be designed to accommodate people rather than cars, and should allow the poor to have access to the city opportunities while ensuring there is minimal sprawl. It implies that city planning should have resource efficient components which include vehicle sharing, electric vehicles, efficient energy, waste and water systems, smart grids, cycle paths, energy efficient buildings, new heating, cooling, and lighting technologies. Further, city planning should incorporate a human-scale sustainable design that creates conditions for livable functionally and socially mixed-use neighborhoods, with options for soft mobility such as walking and cycling, cooling and lighting at the building levels. It is also important to encourage sustainable behaviors such as reducing or separating waste at the source for recycling, advocating the use of public transport, walking or cycling and setting aside land for public spaces.
Related article: Urbanization in Africa: Creating both problems and solutions for climate change
Thirdly, there is a need to leverage governance and politics to reflect sustainable business models that can be experimented to provide hope for a better future. For instance, entrepreneurial urban governance would embrace an active and goal setting role for the state in ways that allow broader interactions of urban ‘agents of change’. This would foster newly sustainable business propositions to guide strategic planning for vibrant, green and socially inclusive cities. A concept such as living hub, city deals, innovation hubs, and special zones indicates that cities are now thinking much more in terms of learning by doing.
Lastly, there is a need for high-level support by the government to improve on the city-level innovation for resource efficiency. Support from the government is necessary to provide access to funding for innovations. It is crucial to allocate for a substantial amount of budget on new innovations that are in support of resource efficiency.
If observed religiously, then we can successfully detach economic growth from harming the environment while maximizing on productivity. Let’s all take responsible actions.
By: Almasi Musa