SEI Contact:

Arno Rosemarin

Mobile: +46 70 723 0088

Time-frame: 2013–2014

Governance Surrounding Global Phosphorus Limitation

The objective of the project is to delineate the linkages between peak phosphorus occurrences and current and future risks to global food and fertilizer security while providing technical and governance recommendations on solutions to manage phosphorus more effectively and sustainably.

Commercial mineral phosphorus reserves are derived mainly from fossil marine sediments and therefore limited, and they are only found in significant quantities in a few countries. At current rates of extraction, the U.S. and China will deplete their commercially recoverable reserves within about 50 years, and global commercial reserves will be depleted within 100-150 years at current rates of extraction and much faster if we increase the production of bioenergy crops.

There is no substitute for phosphorus in our food production system, but it can be recovered and reused, from human, animal and organic waste. To achieve phosphorus fertilizer security the world needs to manage this limited resource more effectively and with much tighter governance systems. However, there is no multilateral, UN agency or governance system to regulate or monitor the extraction of phosphorus rock nor are there any guidelines on sustainable practices or environmental benchmarking.

This project will contribute the following:

• Increased awareness that phosphorus is a limited natural fossil resource and its misuse is risking food security demanding better management and global governance;
• Improved understanding that there are major losses from the mined to consumed phosphorus (estimated at 70%) and that reuse and recycling must begin;
• Recognition of the geopolitical risks surrounding peak phosphorus occurrences (like in 2008) and the urgent need for policies and global governance to secure the world’s limited commercial phosphorus resources;
• Increased interest in the sustainable phosphorus topic among researchers, decision-makers, business and the general public;
• Greater understanding about the linkage between sustainable management of fertilizer and food security.