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Australia to make changes if it is to remain globally competitive

Australia to make changes if it is to remain globally competitive

Australia uses 75% more resources than Japan to generate each dollar of GDP. Our ‘lucky’ country’ has some homework to do before the next World Resources Forum in October in Davos, Switzerland, if it’s to remain globally competitive and prosperous post-boom.

Sydney saw its first World Resources Forum Asia Pacific in June, co-hosted by the Institute for Sustainable Futures (ISF) at UTS and SMaRT@UNSW with 300 attendees from more than 10 different countries, including Sweden, Japan, China, Taiwan, India, South Korea, Finland, Germany, Switzerland, USA and various stakeholders: government, industry, academia and NGOs, and the news for Australia? It has some work to do.

Launching an ‘Action Agenda for Resource Productivity and Innovation’, Associate Professor and Research Director at the ISF says Australian industry and government urgently needs to develop a collective vision for prosperity in a ‘take-make-recreate’ circular economy rather than ‘take-make-dispose’ approach of today. By increasing resource productivity, Australia can remain globally competitive and be a regional leader.

“The Action Agenda is a starting point for further discussion and research to position resource productivity and innovation as high priorities on the national agenda. It outlines four future opportunities for Australia to achieve a new wave of prosperity, as our key trade partners in Japan, China and Europe are already gearing up for. We need to make sure Australia is in a strategic position to build a resilient, competitive economy and promote responsible prosperity within the Asia-Pacific region.

“For example, there is a massive opportunity for business in Australia to harness the renewable energy transition for innovation in sectors beyond the energy industries such as mining and manufacturing - $270billion was invested last year in the transition globally. We need to export responsible minerals, and part of this is closing the loop on waste and growing reverse logistics to support circular resource cycles.”

Moving forward, ISF intends to bring together a group of key stakeholders to develop the Action Agenda into a five year strategy for resource productivity and circular economy in Australia. Key to this is collaboration across industry, government, NGOs and researchers, building on the World Resources Forum Asia Pacific and the Wealth from Waste Cluster.

“ISF’s goal is to encourage organisations, particularly industry leaders and entrepreneurs, to join us in shaping the future vision and strategy for resource productivity in Australia, ahead of October’s World Resources Forum, where we will discuss the strategy in the context of regional and global strategies,” said Associate Prof. Giurco.

CSIRO Executive Director Energy and Resources, and forum Keynote speaker, Alex Wonhas agrees Australian industry and entrepreneurs need to regroup and source new opportunities based on ‘Circular Economy’.

“In the 21st century, one of the - if not the - most important challenges we have to solve is how we can bring prosperity to an ever-growing population of our planet and do that in a sustainable way.”

“It is possible to grow our economy in a sustainable and prosperous way, as long as we focus on three things; make sure we are developing the capability to understand the possible resource use trajectories. Second, put the market and other mechanisms in place to guide our investment. And third, keep working on new and novel solutions and sustainable business,” said Dr Wonhas.

Asia-Pacific is driving future resource consumption and Australia can improve its own resource productivity as well as help economies in the Asia-Pacific. According to recent research from UNEP, using the clear indicators they have developed, Australia uses four times more resources than resource-poor Japan to deliver the same output in the economy. (Australia uses 1.13kg per dollar and Japan uses 0.26kg per dollar, on a per capita basis - Japan uses 9.3 tonnes per capita per year and Australia uses 44 tonnes.)

“Australia extracts 77 tonnes of materials per person from mining and agriculture per year. Part of that is for export, but 44 out of the 77 tonnes of materials per capita per years stays within Australia’s borders. This is high compared to other countries in the region that on average, use approximately 9 tonnes per capita per year and represents an opportunity for resource efficiency and creating wealth from waste,” said UNEP Asia-Pacific Manager and forum keynote speaker, Ms Janet Salem.

As a whole, Asia Pacific regions uses 53% of the world’s resources yet only generates 25% of the world’s GDP. Ms Salem recommends countries in the region, especially Australia, look to more efficient and intelligent use of resources in areas such as infrastructure and technology in order to remain viable and prosper.

“We are seeing changes in the region, China has already introduced policy framework for a Circular Economy by implementing price and regulatory instruments at a government level, private enterprise has followed suit and introduced the technology to support the circular economy,” said Ms Salem.

The World Resources Forum Asia Pacific has confirmed the growing importance and opportunity for resource productivity and the need to create interfaces between research, science, engineering, business and government leading to innovation and mainstreaming.

Forum co-hosts UTS and UNSW Australia will continue to drive the importance of Circular Economy for policy makers and the private sector in support of policies, behaviours and infrastructure for Australia’s future. 

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