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UNEP report on scarce resources

In brief

Worker digging next to a pipeline in Baotou, China

Worker digging next to a pipeline in Baotou, China

The European Commission and the United Nations Environmental Programme are calling for a change in how humanity consumes scarce resources. The joint International Resource Panel produced two studies on the issue.

The first UNEP report mainly focuses on high-tech metals with a low recycling ratio of one per cent. The authors explain that greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced by millions of tons per year if collection systems were expanded in developing countries. They estimate that it is two to ten times more efficient to recycle used metal than to make new ­metal from ore.

The second report says humanity will increasingly deplete its stock of natural resources if the global economy con­tinues to grow without changing consumption patterns. If resources continue to be used as they are today, the global consumption of minerals, ores, fossil energy and biomass will triple by 2050. The UNEP experts warn that the global economy cannot continue to grow at the expense of resources and call for more recycling and conservation.

The report proposes three scenarios. In the most ambitious one, industrial countries would reduce their resource use two thirds, while developing countries would stay at the current level. The researchers say that global resource consumption could then be maintained at the level of 2000. The European Commission plans to use both studies for its upcoming “Roadmap towards a resource-efficient Europe”, to be launched in autumn. (ph)