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Waste Management sector says transitioning to a low-carbon economy will require “green skills”, reports Darrell Moore for CIWM Journal. 

Responding to the Government's Industrial Strategy Green Paper, CIWM has said more attention needs to be paid to resource productivity and security, while the Resource Association says the circular economy should be considered a "pillar" of the strategy.

The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy intends to address long-term challenges to the UK economy, with an aim of improving living standards and economic growth by increasing productivity and driving growth across the whole country.

Dr Colin Church - "Policy making in this space must also be co-ordinated. The reliance placed by the Green Paper on Defra's highly anticipated Defra 25 Year Environment Plan framework... coupled with the news of a General Election in June, should provide the necessary impetus for this important document to be published as soon as possible."

The Department's green paper sets out Government's approach, some early commitments and called for responses from across industry.

CIWM's chief executive, Dr Colin Church, highlights in the CIWM response to the consultation that resources - raw materials, water, energy, land use - will be critical to UK industrial competitiveness and resilience and must be a cross cutting priority in the Industrial Strategy.

CIWM's response stresses the dual contribution the resource and waste management industry can make to future UK prosperity, firstly as a dynamic sector that provides over 100 000 jobs and almost £7bn Gross Value Added to the economy, and secondly through the role it can play in improving resource productivity and efficiency in the UK.

It highlights how the sector can help the Government to meet one of the headline aims of the new strategy, namely inclusive growth and employment, both because secondary resources derived from waste can support local economic development and because industrial growth and new housing requires appropriate waste management services and infrastructure.

This potentially means more job opportunities in some of the UK's traditional low growth/high unemployment areas.

It says transitioning to a resource efficient, low carbon economy will require a renewed focus on "green skills" as part of the strategy and cites that skills related to low carbon growth, resource productivity and efficiency are increasingly important to most professions and supply chains from engineering through to architecture and manufacturing through to retail and hospitality.

"The Government's Resource Security Action Plan, published in 2012 and due for updating, noted that growing competition for resources was already having an impact on UK businesses, with 29% of profit warnings issued by FTSE350 companies in 2011 attributed to rising resource prices," Dr Church said.

"Add in other risks, such as significantly increased price volatility in some commodity markets, and the potential impact of Brexit on the availability or price of material resources needed by the UK economy, and it is not hard to see why CIWM and many others will be trying to get this message across to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

"Policy making in this space must also be co-ordinated. The reliance placed by the Green Paper on Defra's highly anticipated Defra 25 Year Environment Plan framework, which Ministers as recently as last week were promising for the current Parliament, coupled with the news of a General Election in June, should provide the necessary impetus for this important document to be published as soon as possible."

Strong Resource Efficient Circular Economy

The Resource Association welcomed the Government's approach to creating an Industrial Strategy, supporting much of the thrust and intent in the Green Paper.

Resource Association - "We were disappointed that there was only modest reference to the value of the resources sector and have urged Government to see us as a critical foundation sector for the future growth of the UK economy."

Its primary concerns about the Paper centre on the "low profile" of the resources industries and the limited acknowledgement of the potential and value of a resource efficient, circular economy to underpin our future economic success.

In its submission, it calls for:

  • the resource efficient, circular economy to be considered as a "pillar" of the Industrial Strategy in its own right
  • greater attention to be given to the future business risks of overdependence on material inputs from high-risk developing economies and a revival of the idea of a "Stern for Resources" review of resource productivity and resource scarcity
  • building a stronger focus on quality in the use of materials and resources, ensuring that quality feedstock for recyclers and reprocessors is at the heart of a resource efficient economy
  • a Resources Sector Council to respond to Government's calls for industries to unite behind strong leadership to develop in partnership our new economy.

Chief Executive Ray Georgeson said: "The Government's Green Paper presented a huge opportunity to inspire business around a new approach to Industrial Strategy and the principles within it are good news.

"We were disappointed that there was only modest reference to the value of the resources sector and have urged Government to see us as a critical foundation sector for the future growth of the UK economy.

"We stand ready to work with Government and colleagues in the resources sector to collaborate and develop the partnerships needed to make a resource efficient circular economy a reality."

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