POLFREE – In Short
The natural environment is under substantial stress from human activity. Rapid population and economic growth since the dawn of the industrial revolution has been coupled with issues of increasing greenhouse gas emissions (the leading cause of climate change), air and water pollution, ecosystem disruption and biodiversity loss – to name but a few. Continued degradation of the natural environment in such a way is likely, in turn, to have severe and long-lasting implications for human welfare. It is imperative that we, from individuals in civil society to policy makers in government, act to avoid such consequences by reducing humanity’s impact on the environment. Indeed, by doing so we may unlock new wells of opportunity for prosperity that would otherwise go untapped.
For the last three years, researchers on the POLFREE project (Policy Options for a Resource-Efficient Economy) have intensively sought to provide solutions to this problem. First, by investigating the ‘web of constraints’ behind why we do not use natural resources as efficiently as we might. This laid the foundations for the next stage – what does a resource-efficient economy look like, and how may we get there? What are the consequences for society if we achieve this state, and those if we don’t? The answers to such questions are essential in stimulating the change required.