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Global Fight for Natural Resources 'Has Only Just Begun,' say Experts

"Free Markets" cannot be relied to efficiently allocate resources or provide fundamental human needs: Amartya Sen

Common Dreams staff

Nobel prize-winning economist Amartya Sen told the conference that governments would need to step in, to ensure resources were best distributed. (Photograph: Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images for ReSource 2012)

Better economic incentives, rather than ethical considerations and appeals to human morality, are needed to encourage investment in a more sustainable economy, according to Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen.

Speaking at the Re|source 2012 Conference in Oxford, Sen said that so-called 'free markets' could not be counted on to meet all fundamental human needs nor could the private sector be trusted to efficiently allocate the world's natural resources.

“The way to make the financial sector respond is not through moral exhortation, but by increasing incentives,” said Sen. "The market will respond to price increases,” but world governments are required to intervene and address “inequality and iniquity” that the market inherently generates.

Sir David King, former chief scientific adviser to the UK government, who also spok at the conference, told the Guardian: "We are nowhere near realising the full impact of [diminishing resources]. We have seen the first indications – rising food prices, pressure on water supplies, a land grab by some countries for mining rights and fertile agricultural land, and rising prices for energy and for key resources [such as] metals. But we need to do far more to deal with these problems before they become even more acute, and we are not doing enough yet."

Regarding energy investments and creating better markets for renewables, Sen offered that incentives should be introduced for solar technologies, while subsidies for nuclear power should be removed.

Sen said he sees the glass as both half empty and half full, but that if we "think intelligently" the world could make the glass "much more full."

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