Event: Resource Security

(Bern, September 19, 2016). When alluding to resource constraints, or the need for resource security, Global Footprint Network takes the perspective that ultimately the most limiting material factor for life, including human life is nature’s ability to renew. In Global Footprint Network terminology, this is ultimate resource is called biocapacity. For instance, even the amount of fossil fuel on this planet is not most limiting, because what we lack is enough capacity to absorb the CO2 emissions, not the amount underground. Resource sovereignty therefore is a state in which an economy has sufficient access and control over the biocapacity it requires to operate.

The term ‘resource sovereignty’ not only suggests that we depend on resources. It points out that we can take our destiny (as individuals, cities or as a nation) into our own hands – even if climate change and resource constraints are global phenomena. How should Switzerland envisage its long-term success in a world of resource constraints and climate change? There was no joint answer at the end of the event. Most stressed the importance of clear resources – use transparency, innovation and sustainable action.

The panel brought together a practitioner of renewable energies, Urs Rhyner (head of strategy and innovation AgroEnergy Schwyz), a scientist, Philippe Thalmann (economics professor ETH Lausanne), a representative of Swiss industry and enterprises, Kurt Lanz (member of management of economiesuisse) and a resource think tank director, Mathias Schluep (program director of the World Resources Forum). All recognized the need to live within the ecological means of the earth. They differed in how quickly we should get there and what it exactly means. This was also demonstrated in the discussions with the audience: While some consider the rapid implementation of resource policies – also independent from other countries – as important, others saw this as less urgent. This second group appealed for innovation rather than aggressive resource policies. The first group believes that clear objectives will promote precisely this innovation and will be an advantage for Switzerland. Article 73 of the Federal Constitution already asks for that. But Switzerland is far from this destination. It needs four times more than what Swiss ecosystems can renew. How many <Switzerland> should we use in 2050? Almost half of the more than 60 workshop participants chose half a Switzerland by 2050. Many said that they wanted to get to one Switzerland. A few wanted to use more than one Switzerland.

The Event was supported by the Stiftung Mercator Schweiz and Paul Schiller Stiftung. It was assembled in collaboration with numerous organizations, including the World Resources Forum, alliancesudKomitee JA zur Grünen Wirtschaft, Swiss Cleantech, Fossil Free Switzerland, South Pole Group,  Usitawi Network.

We would like to thank Emmanuel Winkler, Karin Hess, and Thomas Zweifel, as well as all the panelists, for their productive collaboration and support in developing and executing the event.