Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Is South Africa running out of resources?

Today the WWF warned of resource shortages in South Africa. See article in Mail & Guardian Online.

South African natural resources (e.g. water, energy, ecosystems, fisheries) are indeed under a lot of pressure. The reasons are legio: ineffective institutions, incorrect price signals leading to misallocation and waste of resources, lack of data and information to inform planning, lack of environmental eduction etc. etc.

Here is a 4 point suggestion what to do to to circumvent resource shortages:
1. Value the contribution of natural resources and the environment to the economy and society. Natural resources are not for free and should not only be charged at a level that recovers capital, operational and maintenance costs. Statistics SA started compiling natural resource accounts, this excercise need to be broadened to all of our important natural resources and repeated at least on a biannual basis.
2. Institution building - creation of markets that provide correct price signals on scarce natural resources. Prices on water, energy and ecosystems should start reflecting its scarcity value. This creates the means for a gradual transition to a less resource intensive society.
3. Structural reform - moving beyond "getting the prices right". Behavioural changes are needed especially in the face of looming resource limits. One example is the growing risks of a very energy and carbon-intensive economy.
4. Monitor and evaluate (M&E) impact of policy instruments. The world is complex, and interventions may create all sorts of unintended consequences. Adaptive management, or being on your toes, requires well constructed M&E feedback.

(Source: Sustainable Options)

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