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Is resource efficiency the missing piece of the jigsaw?

New research shows that better resource efficiency is a far more effective approach to reducing emissions than ‘exciting new technologies’ or flagship government initiatives.

New research shows that better resource efficiency is a far more effective approach to reducing emissions than ‘exciting new technologies’ or flagship government initiatives.

If businesses took action to put less materials into the production process and get more out of the materials used, the UK could cut carbon emissions by 200 million tonnes by 2032 - equivalent to more than half of current annual emissions.

That is the conclusion of a new report from Green Alliance and a collaboration of four UK universities, which suggests that more emphasis on resource efficiency - doing more with less - is vital in the battle against climate change.

According to ‘Less In, More Out’, resource efficiency could save more than seven times the amount of emissions expected to be saved by the government’s smart meter rollout or more than three times the amount expected to be saved by the flagship Renewable Heat Incentive scheme. 

Biggest winners

Five industrial sectors are singled out as offering significant opportunities for improving efficiency: construction; vehicles; food and drink; electronics and appliances; and clothing and textiles. 

Significant carbon savings could be achieved in these areas by simply keeping materials and goods in use for longer. 

‘Address the less obvious’

Baroness Brown of Cambridge, deputy chair of the government’s independent Committee on Climate Change (CCC), said: “It is always tempting to see new technologies as the way to reduce emissions. It is easy to see the opportunities for both economic growth and emissions reduction from exciting new developments like electric vehicles. 

“But this important report challenges us to address the less obvious, but significant opportunities that also come from using less and reusing more. Using materials more efficiently reduces input costs, which will help companies create successful business models around longer lasting products.”