Policy measures to halt the increase in global resource consumption

State of Green
By State of Green, November 12, 2018

A new OECD report aims to spark debate regarding sustainable economic policies that can curb global material consumption. This is timely, given that global resource consumption is projected to double by 2060.

The OECD recently published its new report ‘The Global Material Resource Outlook to 2060´, which presents the organisation’s expectations regarding future consumption of raw materials. The report predicts that in less than 45 years, global resources will be under double the amount of pressure they are today. By comparing data projections regarding population growth, increases in income and consumption patterns, the report paints an alarming picture of the demand for global resources that we can expect to see in the future.

Welfare threat that necessitates more than merely increasing recycling rates
The report attempts to predict developments, based on expected improvements in recycling technologies. The study shows that, despite the recycling industry being projected to grow considerably faster than the mining and mineral industries and that an important shift will take place, where we move from production outputs to service outputs, consumption of virgin and secondary resources will grow at the same rate.

-Related solution: Waste recycling in the building industry

At the launch of the report, OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria stated:“Growth in materials use, coupled with the environmental consequences of material extraction, processing and waste, is likely to increase the pressure on the resource bases of our economies and jeopardize future gains in well-being. This Outlook can help decision makers understand the direction in which we are heading and help to assess which policies can support a more circular economy.”

In order to address the issue of massive resource consumption, the OECD report recommends that national governments:

  • Implement policies and create incentive structures that support more resource efficient development throughout the entire product value chain.
  • Implement policies that promote resource efficiency through the entire lifecycle of a product.
  • Treating resource efficiency as a part of economic policies and integrating it into crosscutting and sectoral policies.
  • Strengthening policy development and evaluation through better data and analyses.

-Related solution: Billund BioRefinery

A direct consequence for the climate
The report comes on the heels of the release of the IPCC’s latest report on global temperature increases as a result of climate change. The OECD considers increased resource efficiency as one of the key elements in the fight against climate change. Simultaneously, it also anticipates dramatic increases in greenhouse gas emissions due to the extraction and consumption of material resources, despite ongoing efficiency improvements.

Taming the beast
The report directly addresses the issue that was raised at the Danish Waste and Resouce Network’s annual conference, where Professor Martin Stuchtey argued that it is critical we “tame the beast,” and thus devote more effort into actively managing and balancing consumption of scarce resources, rather than focusing solely on technological solutions. Therefore, we need to establish a systemic perspective before we can successfully achieve a circular economy – or else we run the risk of a “rebound-effect” and resource consumption will run riot.

Find the new OECD report here


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