Climate change cannot be addressed without reducing overconsumption, says Green Alliance.
In a new report, the think tank calls on the government to set a target to halve national resource consumption, warning that biodiversity losses and climate change can only be tackled by using less.
It alleges the UK’s resources and waste strategy, outlined in 2018, has made little progress in this area, largely due to a lack of targets set to help achieve a more circular model of operation.
Green Alliance states that although the government has worked to tackle single waste streams such as microbeads, plastic bags and straws, it has failed to address the root of the waste problem, which it concludes is the widespread overconsumption of both finite and renewable resources.
It highlights that resource use drives half of the world’s climate emissions and a staggering 90% of natural destruction globally, with the UK’s current rate of resource consumption twice the level considered to be sustainable.
The think tank says the government must now focus attention on the incentives, behaviours, business models, and physical and logistical infrastructure “needed for better resource management, rather than piecemeal interventions”.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it calls for a clear plan providing short-term certainty and a stable policy environment to encourage circular business models to be established.
Libby Peake, Head of Resource Policy at Green Alliance, said: “Ministers need to stop clutching at plastic straws. The UK’s unsustainable resource use is bigger than that. An ambitious target is necessary to focus minds on reducing our consumption to sustainable levels, just like net zero has done for climate action.
“A legally binding 50% by 2050 reduction target for consumption would provide a clear signal to other nations of the UK’s seriousness to act on this major global economic and environmental issue, and will provide global leadership on resources at this year’s international summits.”
A Defra spokesperson said: “Our Resources and Waste Strategy will drive change from a ‘take, make, use, throw’ system to a more circular economy.
“Through our 25 Year Environment Plan, we are already committed to doubling the resource productivity of our economy and we are committed to eliminating all avoidable waste. We are also tackling environmentally harmful wastes through Extended Producer Responsibility for packaging, the Deposit Return Scheme and our upcoming consultation on consistency.
“Our world-leading Environment Bill will enable us to set down long-term legally-binding targets for resource efficiency and waste reduction, as well as giving us landmark powers to boost recycling and tackle plastic pollution, ensuring that both industry and consumers are incentivised to reuse and recycle what they make and use.”