Why the Arab Region needs Resource Efficiency Programme

Dr. Mohamed Ahmed Hizam Al-Aawah; Ph.D
Programme Specialist,
Ecology &Earth Science Programme,
UNESCO (Cairo) Regional Bureau for Science in the Arab States

Resource efficiency means using the Earth’s limited resources in a sustainable manner while minimizing impacts on the environment. It allows us to create more with less and to deliver greater value with less input. Resource efficiency is about doing more with less

  • Creating more value with less impact. It increases aggregate economic value through more productive use of resources, taking their whole life cycle into account.

Demand for raw materials continues to increase with population growth, economic prosperity, and globalisation. The use of water, energy, and materials throughout society is extremely inefficient. This creates enormous demands on nature, both for new supplies, and for sinks to absorb wastes. It also leads to massive economic waste, as highly concentrated and energy-intensive materials are simply thrown away. Increasing global resource demand has also driven a further separation of resource suppliers and resource users, with large social and economic impacts for those regions that supply natural resources to the world market and increasing costs and supply insecurities for those demanding resources. As a response, many national governments have invested in policy strategies for sustainable use of natural resources including Europe and many Asian economies, most notably Japan, South Korea and China.

Resource efficiency requires extracting and using natural resources in a sustainable way. It also includes minimizing impacts of the use of one resource on other natural resources. Focusing on resource efficiency means process optimization to limit consumption of energy, water and materials and output of waste products.

Several barriers hindered developing countries from achieving a higher standard of living through the more effective use of national resources. In past decades, various schemes have been proposed as the key to promoting economic growth and development, however, these schemes has failed to provide prosperity for the developing countries.

In recent years, the world has recognized the importance of resource efficiency as a key to securing growth and jobs around the world. Thus, Europe has developed a resource efficient initiative as one of seven flagship initiatives of the Europe 2020 strategy aiming to sustainable growth of the continent. In the meanwhile, several EU member states such as Germany and Austria - are developing dedicated resource efficiency policy frameworks as a response to expected increasing natural resource scarcities.

Reporting on resource efficiency of national economies and economic sectors in the context of production and consumption systems including an outlook on future trends in resource efficiency rests on a number of cornerstones such as information on the natural resource base of social and economic development of nations.

The Arab Region is in great need to address resource efficiency, especially since the region is rich in resources, with enormous oil and natural gas resources in certain countries and other resources such as minerals, land and sea throughout the region. However, natural resources are being used, unsustainably, undermining the region economic growth. Resource efficiency will help the region in ensuring the security of supply of its essential resources and limit other environmental impacts of resource use among others. The finding of the 2012 report of the Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED) concluded that “over-exploitation of local renewable and non-renewable resources of the region, as a strategy to boost biocapacity causes depletion and unrecoverable losses in the economic value of natural capital assets”.

The region launched its strategy on Sustainable consumption and Production (SCP) in 2009 within the frame work of resource efficiency programme of the United Nation Environmental Programme Regional Office for West Asia (UNEP,-ROWA). The strategy identified regional SCP priorities to be energy, water, waste, rural development & poverty alleviation, and education and sustainable lifestyles. This year, UNEPROWA has also organized in partnership with the Centre for Environment and Development for the Arab Region and Europe (CEDARE) and in collaboration with the Institute of Earth Systems in the University of Malta, an Expert Meeting on Resource Efficiency: Economics and Outlook for the Arab Region. The meeting focused on the demand for, and use of, natural resources both as drivers and as consequences of economic activity and social development.

Resource efficiency activities in the region would provide several opportunities for economic growth, while decreasing resource use and environmental degradation. Although, there are several ongoing resource management activities in some countries of the region, the inefficient resource use at a time of growing demand is leading to increasing environmental pressure and substantial costs. Economic activities in the region have produced increasing amounts of waste and material consumption. The Region is really in need to establish an effective resource efficiency policies and measures in a time of economic difficulty.

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