Economic and legal dimensions of resource conservation

brown coal miningClick to enlarge
Lignite mining ruins the landscape

Braunkohleförderung im Tagebau, Bagger und Förderbrücken

Source: Andreas Fanke /

In order to conserve resources successfully, we need laws and economic conditions that promote resource efficiency and reduce resource use. The goal is to increase economic opportunity through measures such as cost reductions. At the same time protection against increasing raw material prices and extreme price fluctuations is required.

The goal of resource conservation is to ensure that future generations have sufficient natural resources, and to avoid or minimize the environmental impact of resource use. For this, we need (a) laws and economic conditions that promote manufacturing and consumption practices that conserve resources; and (b) to abolish distortions of competition that promote resource intensive manufacturing and consumption. To create these conditions, we have various instruments at our disposal.

Regulatory and planning instruments (requirements, prohibitions, plans and programs) can help to promote behaviour patterns and actions that are resource conservation oriented. Unfortunately, current environmental laws and the like do not in all cases pursue the goal of systematic, comprehensive and consistent resource conservation. To close this gap, we need to incorporate resource conservation regulations into environmental laws, and enact specific laws concerning natural-resource conservation.

We also need economic incentives aimed at improving resource efficiency and reducing resource use. Such measures cut operating costs, improve international competitiveness, and promote economic development in general. Key to achieving this as well is promoting innovations that reduce resource use. We also need to phase out subsidies of activities that pollute the environment and promote resource use.