By Hans-Jörg Althaus, 19.06.2015
Imagine if the Federal Council did not present a budget for 2016 but suggested instead that the money simply be spent until it runs out. Absurd, you say? Of course, because the federal authorities do not have enough money to pay for everything we want. Once people become aware that resources are scarce – be they money, materials, labour or natural resources – the fact that their management requires strategic planning is beyond dispute.
With the exception of solar energy, all natural resources are finite. Some, like water for example, are available in vast quantities throughout the world. Others, for example gold, are very rare. Despite this, water is more scarce than gold in many countries. Scarcity arises when demand exceeds availability. Hence a scarce good is characterised by the fact that the demand is limited by the supply. This is not yet a problem in itself.
A functioning market reacts to resource scarcity by increasing prices. It can reduce the demand for a scarce good by replacing it in a product with another less scarce good: for example, the demand for rare elements falls when electrical engines are used that can function without a particular scarce element. Likewise, supply is often increased as a result of a price increase as production processes that were previously unviable become profitable. We only refer to goods or resources as being critical when these two responses to scarcity are not possible.
The substitution of scarce goods requires innovation. This applies to both material and non-material natural resources. Strategic planning is needed to ensure the timely availability of these innovations. We must know the volumes of individual natural resources that are available to us and how much of them we need.
For this reason we need a resource strategy. Not only because, otherwise, we will run out of resources at some point, but also because such a strategy provides opportunities for the Swiss economy. Companies that know which resources are about to become scarce will be the first on the market with the right innovation – this has always been Switzerland's recipe for success. In other words: a resource strategy guarantees Switzerland the head start that it needs for long-term success.
For this reason, the business association swisscleantech published the Cleantech Resource Strategy in June 2015. It demonstrates, for example, that a rapid withdrawal from fossil fuels is indispensable and that all raw materials — including the critical ones — are sufficient to implement the energy transition both in Switzerland and globally.
Editor's note: Individual contributions may reflect an author's personal perspective. Over time, the spectrum of political views will be reflected in the variety of the contributions published. Editorial principles
Last modification 15.09.2015