Resource Politics – A commented link list

September 24, 2012

The following articles and publications are sorted according to the resource they focus on. However, due to the nexus between the different resources, most of the studies touch upon more than one resource. Some of them try to take a very comprehensive perspective and deal with all resources:

Planetary Boundaries
The Stockholm Resilience Center developed a new approach to help humanity deal with climate change and other global environmental threats that lie ahead. In 2009, a group of 28 internationally renowned scientists proposed nine global biophysical boundaries that define a planetary 'safe operating space' within which humanity can continue to develop and thrive for generations to come. The study emphasizes that the resources and boundaries are strongly connected with each other. The analysis suggests that three of these boundaries (climate change, loss of biological diversity and nitrogen input into the biosphere) may already have been transgressed.

McKinsey‘s „Resource Revolution“
In November 2011, McKinsey and Company published “Resource Revolution: Meeting the world’s energy, material, food and water needs”. The report looks at the challenge of fulfilling the needs of “three billion more middle-class consumers in the next twenty years” while facing high and volatile resource prices. It recognizes that investors must have some guide to choosing between different energy resources and factoring in the obstacles to further extracting marginal fossil fuel reserves (e.g., tar sands, shale gas). It gives a good overview of an economistic view of natural resource management that is based on the assumption of sustained economic growth. 

Some Reflections on Climate Change, Green Growth Illusions and Development Space (Ulrich Hoffmann, UNCTAD)
This paper argues that growth, technological, population-expansion and governance constraints as well as some key systemic issues cast a very long shadow on the “green growth” hopes. The required transformation goes beyond innovation and structural changes to include democratization of the economy and cultural change.

UNEP’s Green Economy Report
In the run up to the Rio+20 conference UNEP released their comprehensive report on the green economy which was analyzed and criticized in different articles by the Heinrich Böll Foundation (e.g. )

However, the concept includes some interesting aspects in the various different subsections.

This is the section on agriculture:

This is the section on forests:

This is the section on water:

Land & Water

Climate change, hunger and poverty, loss of biodiversity, forest destruction, water crises, food safety – what all these threats have in common is that a principal cause for each of them is the way we produce, trade, consume and discard food and other agricultural products. Against this background the World Bank and the United Nations in 2003 organized a unique international process: in a four-year-process, more than 400 scientists summarised the state of global agriculture, its history and its future. The outcome was the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD). The findings are uncomfortable and alarming: providing a warning to the misleading ways of the past and showing new ways forward.

The original Report:

The summary from Greenpeace:

Opening Pandora’s Box (GAIA Foundation)
With this report the GAIA Foundation draws the link between land grabbing and mining:  the impact of extractive industries has always raised serious social and environmental concerns. However, this report signals a wake-up call to the fact that, today, the scale, expansion and acceleration of these industries are far greater than most of us realize. We are no longer talking about isolated pockets of destruction and pollution. Nowadays, chances are that, no matter where you live on Earth, land acquisitions for mining, oil and gas might soon be at your door. This trend is now a major driver of land grabbing globally, and poses a significant threat to the world’s indigenous communities, farmers and local food production systems, as well as to precious water, forests, biodiversity, critical ecosystems and climate change.

The Economics of Desertification, Land Degradation, and Drought
Land degradation is taking place in all agroecological zones. Desertification, land degradation, and drought have long affected the world. Yet, they are increasingly considered a global problem, as their extent and impacts are increasingly affecting environmental and social vulnerability. This paper develops a conceptual framework to compare the costs of action against land degradation versus the costs of inaction. By doing so it puts a price on the cost of land degradation – however, as Heinrich Böll Foundation we critically question whether it is possible and helpful to illustrate environmental problems in monetary terms.

Save and Grow (Food and Agriculture Organization)
In this report the FAO presents its concept of sustainable growth for the agricultural sector. It is a concept which has to be assed carefully but which includes many important components. As the FAO points out, the present paradigm of intensive crop production cannot meet the challenges of the new millennium. In order to grow, agriculture must learn to save.

State of Land and Water, SOLAW (Food and Agriculture Organization)
SOLAW is aimed at sensitizing on the status of land resources at global and regional levels and FAO's viewpoint on appropriate recommendations for policy formulation. SOLAW focuses on these key dimensions of analysis: (i) quantity, quality of land and water resources (ii) the rate of use and sustainable management of these resources in the context of relevant socio-economic driving factors and concerns, including food security and poverty, and climate change. This is the first time that a global, baseline status report on land and water resources has been produced. It is based on several global spatial databases for which FAO is the globally recognized data source.

Behind every land grab is a water grab
GRAIN is the leading NGO working on land grabbing issues and won the Right Livelihood Award in 2011. Building on their outstanding work on investment in land this publication shows the importance of water scarcity going along with land grabbing.

Biodiversity & Forests

Financialisation, Biodiversity Conservation and Equity

Some Currents and Concerns
Present high rates of biodiversity loss have directed attention towards market-based mechanisms that seek to create tradable financial assets out of species and ecosystems. This ‘financialisation’ is said to encourage biodiversity conservation by incorporating monetised ecological values into economic decision-making.
This paper explores how financialisation of conservation is made possible through the monetisation of nature and the establishment of environmental markets. It surveys the latest developments in this field, which encompass esoteric financial instruments such as forest bonds, species credits and biodiversity offsets.

Putting a price on the rivers and rain diminishes us all
Our rivers and natural resources are to be valued and commodified, a move that will benefit only the rich and promote a giant enclosure of the commons,  argues George Monbiot

REDD - Rainforest Roulette? Carbon markets might do more harm than good for efforts to tackle deforestation and climate change

A good and up-to-date briefing on REDD by UK based Rainforest Foundation. The Rainforest Foundation works in all major rainforest countries with indigenous people and local communities to help protect the forests.

A short introduction to the REDD Debate you find in the: Dollars, Hope and Controversies – REDD in the Amazon (see above).

Extractive Industries

The Natural Resource Charta
The Natural Resource Charter is a set of economic principles for governments and societies on how to best manage the opportunities created by extractive resources for development. The Charter comprises twelve precepts, or principles, that encapsulate the choices and suggested strategies that governments might pursue to increase the prospects of sustained economic development from natural resource exploitation.

The European Raw Materials Initiative (RMI)
The EU launched its updated Raw Materials Initiative in February 2011.

Prior to that, the EC conducted a report on critical raw materials for the EU:

A general analysis of the RMI by the Heinrich Böll Foundation is available here:

A civil society critique of the implications of the European trade policy on raw materials can be found here:

The German Raw Materials Strategy
The German raw materials strategy was launched in October 2010.

For an analysis of the state of implementation, including the bilateral raw material partnerships with Mongolia and Kazakhstan, see:

Relevant information and reports, for example regarding revenue transparency and corruption in the extractive industries, can also be found on the following websites:

Global Witness:

Publish What You Pay:

Revenue Watch Institute: