The spectre of resource insecurity has come back with a vengeance. The world is undergoing a period of intensified resource stress, driven in part by the scale and speed of demand growth from emerging economies and a decade of tight commodity markets. Poorly designed and short-sighted policies are also making things worse, not better. Whether or not resources are actually running out, the outlook is one of supply disruptions, volatile prices, accelerated environmental degradation and rising political tensions over resource access.
Fears of resource scarcity are not new. On many occasions, higher rates of investment and improved technology have resolved the problem of the day, though often with additional environmental and social costs. With the maturation of technologies to access non-conventional gas and oil, as well as the global economic downturn, some analysts suggest that the resource boom of the past decade is coming to an end – especially in the extractive industries – and that resource-related tensions will ease.
The hard truth is that many of the fundamental conditions that gave rise to the tight markets in the past ten years remain. In the case of food, the world remains only one or two bad harvests away from another global crisis. Lower prices in the meantime may simply trigger another bout of resource binge, especially in the large and growing developing countries.
This report focuses on the new political economy of resources. It analyses the latest global trends in the production, trade and consumption of key raw materials or intermediate products and explores how defensive and offensive moves by governments and other stakeholders are creating new fault lines on top of existing weaknesses and uncertainties.
The report also proposes a series of critical interventions, including new informal dialogues involving a group of systemically significant producer and consumer countries ('Resource 30' or R30) to tackle resource price volatility and to improve confidence and coordination in increasingly integrated globalresource markets.
The report's website features an interactive digital tool that shows the emerging economies that have become major centres of resource consumption, joining existing economic powers. The tool also graphically illustrates global interdependencies; the concentration of production in a handful of countries; new producers set to join the scene; and the new wave of consumers. In addition, there are examples of likely political, economic and environmental disruptions.