Research

SEI Contact:

Annika Varnäs


Time-frame: 2010–2012

3C - Resource scarcity

The depletion of natural resources, coupled with the significant scale and speed of growth in the developing world, is expected to have a critical long-term impact on global markets. Future climate change is also likely to impact on resource scarcity, but its subsequent implications for business remain relatively poorly understood. Somewhat ironically, the demand for low carbon technologies are themselves increasing the consumption of the materials that these technologies require, leading to increasing demands upon limited resources. For example, lithium for renewable batteries and rare earth metals for batteries and magnets in low carbon vehicles and wind turbines.

Another resource increasingly in demand as a direct consequence of the drive for low carbon technologies is biomass for fuels and chemical feedstocks for plastics and other products. Relying on the market to regulate resource use through price signals may not be an effectively strategy to manage supply and could pose a significant risk to business investment and reduce business opportunities in the long-term. The proposed study would focus on two key types of resources. First, we will explore the constraints posed by biomass, a renewable, but limited resource. Second, we will consider the finite, and non-renewable, rare metals that feature in low-carbon devices. This study seeks to: Assess the state of knowledge about the resources that would underlie a low-carbon economy, focusing in particular on rare metals and biomass; Identify strategies for businesses and governments to respond to the challenges of a transition to a low-carbon economy that relies on finite non-renewable resources and limited renewable resources; and Assess how business activities might interact with other sectors that use finite and limited resources.

Read more on the 3C - SEI Partnership Programme»

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