Government continues to ignore warnings about the depletion of natural resources

The UK’s government is ignoring warnings from senior Whitehall economists about the ongoing depletion of natural resources and the impact of climate change. They argue that the country’s economy will suffer, inevitably and soon, if the issues are not confronted and changes are not made in overall strategies.

According to information gathered by Friends of the Earth through Freedom of Information requests, the Treasury Department blocked efforts on the part of numerous agencies to conduct a major review of looming threats to economic growth. Organisations including UK Steel, the Confederation of Paper Industries, the manufacturers’ group EEF and others called for government to set up an effective Office of Resource Management, to no avail.

Economists from BIS and the Foreign Office as well as the Department of Energy and Climate Change have all gone on record as warning that current trends could have severe negative impact on the UK’s “potential for sustainable growth, its terms of trade, exposure to commodity prices shocks and the security of resource supply.”

Friends of the Earth uncovered a series of e-mails within the departments of Whitehall that strongly urged immediate action to address the issues, but the suggestion was effectively squashed by the Treasury Department, specifically by its chief economist David Ramsden, who said, “The link between the long-term, global analysis and UK policy and strategy is too speculative for an independent review to get into.”

Proponents of review and change strongly disagree, and the general consensus seems to be that the Prime Minister and other officials are displaying a dangerous lack of foresight. As Friends of the Earth campaigner Guy Shrubsole puts it: “Any economic ministry worth its salt, particularly that of the self-styled ‘greenest Government ever’ should be leading these kinds of reviews – not crushing them as irritants.”

Certainly it’s not only environmentalists who are concerned; UK business and manufacturing interests are worried about the potential shortage or disappearance of crucial resources such as rare metals used in many electronic products. However the potential shortage of clean water to drink and air to breathe should be motivation enough for leaders and citizens to take action before all that’s left is hindsight.