Resource Equity in a Finite World

By Ruya Perincek, on 28 September 2013

UCL ISR team at the Heinrich Böll Foundation Resource Summit 2013On 12 and 13 September, Professor Raimund Bleischwitz, BHP Billiton Chair in Sustainable Global Resources at UCL ISR and Member of the Advisory Board at the Heinrich Böll Foundation (HBF), and three UCL ISR PhD students attended the Resource Equity in a Finite World – Resource Summit 2013 in Berlin, hosted by the German Heinrich Böll Foundation. The summit was the final part of a two-year  process including ten future workshops with twenty-one HBF offices and twenty-seven countries participating. The major output of this process will be a resource memorandum which will be published in spring 2014.

There have been several highlights at the summit but the biggest was arguably  the keynote speech of Kate Raworth, from the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford University, on her concept Doughnut of social and planetary boundaries. According to Raworth, there is an environmental ceiling consisting of nine planetary boundaries, namely land use change, climate change, freshwater use, nitrogen and phosphorus cycles, ocean acidification, chemical pollution, atmospheric aerosol loading, ozone depletion, and biodiversity loss. Beyond these boundaries, we see ecological destruction in which the earth’s system is stretched to its limits. Beneath the environmental degradation, social problems lie at the centre of the doughnut. The inner part of the doughnut consists of eleven social priorities which constitute the social foundations of societies: food, water, income, education, resilience, voice, jobs, energy, social equity, gender equality, and health.  There is an environmentally safe and socially just space between the social and planetary boundaries in which humanity can exist and prosper.

One of Raworth’s most striking remarks with regards to the loss of biodiversity was that “diversity gives the ecosystem resilience – monoculture gives vulnerability”. Moreover, the root causes of the problems we face today globally are the unequal distribution and the prevailing economic paradigm; not population growth as such. Overall, the Doughnut is a holistic conceptual framing of challenges to the climate, natural resources, and human rights. It is a helpful guide towards social, ecological, and procedural justice.

The overall aim and output of the entire process was to develop a vision of a socially and ecologically just world as well as to suggest strategies for further action. The need for this initiative generated from the observation that our current global economic system and consumption behaviour are highly dependent on the exploitation of non-renewable resources and that investments in extraction often have negative impacts on the economic and social development of resource-rich countries.

The entire process addressed the need to ask young stakeholders from civil society and the scientific world from all regions in the world about their thoughts and visions and to make them contribute to the resource memorandum which can be and should be used in policy-making and negotiations at various levels, i.e. regional, national and international. The memorandum will therefore be an important product which could serve as a basis for discussion with different decision makers and stakeholders in order to show that  another world is needed, desired and also possible to realize.