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Science for Environment Policy: Resource Efficiency

Science for Environment Policy: Resource Efficiency

Humanity is demanding ever greater economic productivity at a time when natural resources, the input that feeds this productivity, are dwindling.

Report outlines global patterns of resource consumption
People are using more of the Earth's natural resources than ever before, seriously harming the environment and placing the well-being of future generations at risk. A recent report finds that Europe is particularly reliant on imported resources and proposes actions to help societies move towards a more sustainable way of using resources. Download article (PDF)

Choosing the path towards a sustainable future
The high consumption lifestyles that currently drive much of society are not sustainable, so recent research has explored how society could develop more sustainably over the next century. Resource depletion, climate change, water scarcity, environmental pollution, and alleviating poverty are some of the urgent issues that have to be addressed. Download article (PDF)

Socio-economic transformation needed to reduce resource extraction
A new report has estimated that if business continues as usual, global resource extraction and associated CO2 emissions could triple by 2050. It concludes a coordinated change across policies is needed with targets for resource extraction, environmental impact and efficiency of supply. Download article (PDF)

Seven steps to improving resource productivity and dematerialisation
It is estimated that 90 per cent of natural materials, whether they are ingredients, energy or services, is wasted during the making, delivering and use of goods. A new report has proposed seven practical steps to 'dematerialise' goods by a factor of ten, which could help achieve a balance between commerce and the environment. Download article (PDF)

Resource scarcity threat and eco-innovation demand EU policy response
A new report reviews EU industrial and energy policy development, addressing growing resource scarcity and the urgent need to reduce global resource consumption. Proposed policy interventions include reform of the Eco-design Directive and regional funding mechanisms. Download article (PDF)
International cooperation needed to prevent depletion of resources
Without ambitious new policies, population growth and economic development will push natural resources to their limits by 2030, according to an OECD report. The report calls for action to promote efficient use of resources in order to protect the environment and key industries, and supports cooperation between OECD and non-OECD nations to help achieve this. Download article (PDF)

Material Productivity as consumption indicator needs careful interpretation
Analyses of global material consumption patterns have suggested that the main indicator of sustainable consumption used at policy level in Europe and the OECD provides only part of the picture. 'Material Productivity' (MP), a commonly used indicator, favours high-income countries, even though these tend to have the highest level of resource use, according to researchers. Download article (PDF)

Total cost accounting helps reduce resource use in manufacturing
One way of measuring the sustainability of a product over its entire life cycle is to use a 'total cost accounting' approach. A recent study has applied this method to show that copper would be a more sustainable choice of metal to use in transformers than aluminium, primarily because of the high value of recycled copper compared with the price of recycled aluminium. Download article (PDF)

More efficient use of phosphorus needed
Phosphorus resources are not threatened in the short-term, but could decline by up to 50 per cent by 2100, according to researchers. Although the predictions are uncertain, they support the need to reduce phosphorus fertiliser use through greater material efficiency measures, such as recycling and better agricultural management. Download article (PDF)

Behavioural change essential to lowering energy use in the home
A recent study suggests relying on technical efficiency improvements in the home to reduce energy consumption is unlikely to produce significant energy savings unless householders also adopt lifestyles with lower consumption habits. Download article (PDF)

Potential for efficient use of materials to boost employment levels
A new study has estimated the future employment impacts of five innovations that use materials more efficiently. The results indicate there could be small overall increases in employment levels in all cases, however, this may require substantial structural changes in different economic sectors. Download article (PDF)
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