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Chatham House Resource Futures report

In December 2012 Chatham House (The Royal Institute for International Affairs) produced a report, Resource Futures, which presented the findings of a major into the shifting global political economy of key resources (land, water, energy, minerals and food), analysing their inter-linkages in production, use and trade.

The report argues that the prospect of resource scarcity, both real and perceived, has fast become a major item on the global policy agenda. This has called into question the sustainability of current developmental paths, and highlights the resource implications of a global transition to a low-carbon economy. It says that misperceptions and poor policy could fuel geopolitical tensions, undermine global economic and environmental cooperation, foster local and regional insecurity and disproportionately affect the livelihoods of the world’s poorest. Managing these growing global resource stresses together with a successful transition to sustainable and equitable resource use will test the resilience of global and regional regimes and governance mechanisms. The ongoing reconfiguration of the international political economy of resources trade and use remain poorly understood. The complex policy implications of these momentous shifts need to be systematically evaluated and translated into concrete policy recommendations for governments and businesses.

The key findings of the report are as follows:

  • The spectre of resource insecurity has come back with a vengeance. 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 global resource markets.

Citation as follows: Lee B, Preston F, Kooroshy J, Bailey R and Lahn G (2012). Resource Futures: A Chatham House Report, Royal Institute of International Affairs, London.

The report itself can be downloaded here. However, for those short on time, you can find a useful infographic here.

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