What is YOUR view?
Many scientists see the challenge as follows: They perceive a world that is increasingly dominated by resource scarcity and climate change. The CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is increasing. In spite of international negotiations, efforts to meaningfully reverse current resource trends are far from sufficient. In fact, the demand for natural resources is growing unabatedly, particularly in emerging markets. In most high- income countries, demand is not shrinking either. The world population is increasing annually by 80 million people. At the same time, the world is already in an ecological deficit, possibly using over 60% more than what Earth can renew. Switzerland’ ecological deficit is even larger: it needs over four times more than what Swiss ecosystems can regenerate; or it would take three Earths if everybody world-wide lived like residents of Switzerland. For these scientists, this world characterized by persistent “overshoot” is exposed to growing risks of social and economic instability.
Some economic strategists look at the challenge as follows: Economics studies the allocation of scarce resources. Is the goal to avoid global warming (as stipulated by the climate summit in Paris in 2015) or to be resource efficient, then economists can suggest appropriate measures, how to get there cheapest. This is the purpose of economic policy: to define the common rules of the game. Of course, these rules need to be supported by a societal consensus. Sometimes this consensus is the limiting factor. For example, an ecological tax reform with more burdens on resource use and less on wages, would be highly effective and economically efficient. But this approach encounters much popular resistance, and has not made much headway. Another attractive way forward is innovation. Innovation has been able to drive significant progress in some areas: for instance, the drop of costs in photovoltaics and wind power has led to energy generation costs that in some cases can outcompete fossil fuel. In other words, a combination of innovation funding, taxes and incentives as well as a clear set of rules (that in itself can also spur innovation) are efficient approaches to reach resource security.
Other economic planners perceive the challenge as minor. They see resources as an insignificant economic driver of production. Renewable resources are particularly insignificant drivers, less important even than key minerals. All of them are far from being a decisive cost factor for an economy. The key drivers of national competitiveness, according to their view, are the quality of the workforce and a country’s macroeconomic stability, not their resource situation. Therefore, countries must primarily focus on fomenting a positive economic climate. The ability to adapt and to find technological alternatives in order to overcome resource shortages, should they come up, is the best insurance for resource security. Too specific resource policies would be inefficient and limit potential solutions. Also, higher incomes by themselves provide more benefit as they typically help societies afford a cleaner environment.
How do you see Switzerland’s situation? What is your preferred way forward? Switzerland’s future depends on how we assess this challenge and how we act. Which approach will prove to be more realistic? To prepare a successful future means making good bets about the future today.
Our view: A proposal for Switzerland
We, at Global Footprint Network- Switzerland, also have a perspective. We call it «Watch out, dear Switzerland!». It contains suggestions how we would prepare Switzerland for a successful future. It also points to tools that help us identify winning strategies and set priorities.
Get inspired, annoyed, engaged, or ready to counter-propose!
Comments, arguments, responses? Send us feedback – firstname.lastname@example.org