International resource policies

A quarryClick to enlarge
Global demand for raw materials is threatening to increase dramatically.
Source: Zarathustra / Fotolia

In recent years, public debate on natural resource conservation and the implementation of measures for increased resource efficiency has gained considerable momentum both in Europe and internationally. This dynamic has helped to shape the environmental policy debate. An UBA research project has now carried out a scientific analysis of resource policies and instruments in nine countries.

The extent of global resource consumption has more than tripled since 1970. According to the International Resources Panel, 85 billion tonnes of raw materials were extracted worldwide in 2015. This is equivalent to an average demand of 12 tonnes per capita and year.

The intense anthropogenic use of resources is in many cases associated with negative, sometimes drastic, ecological impacts.
Uncontrolled extraction of metallic raw materials in mining, burning of fossil fuels or improper disposal of waste are examples of how the use of raw materials exacerbates environmental concerns such as climate change, soil degradation and loss of biodiversity. Ultimately, the increasing demand for resources further intensifies global and local environmental impacts.

Against this backdrop, measures for a more efficient and sustainable use of natural resources are being introduced worldwide. The aim is to decouple economic growth and resource use and to achieve an absolute reduction in negative environmental impacts.

Various supranational organisations are already active in this context. Following a proposal put forward during the German Presidency, the G7 established a G7 Alliance for Resource Efficiency in 2015. The G20 also initiated a Resource Efficiency Dialogue in 2017 with the aim of making the efficient and sustainable use of natural resources a core element of future G20 discourse. The European Commission has updated recently its Circular Economy Action Plan. Internationally, a range of other activities are underway, for example at the OECD or the United Nations ("International Resource Panel").

To advance knowledge about national policy measures worldwide, the Environment Agency launched the research project "Monitoring international resource policies (MoniRess)" in 2016. Over the course of the MoniRess project, ifeu - Institute for Energy and Environmental Research Heidelberg GmbH in collaboration with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH developed a monitoring system and explored the resource policies and instruments of a total of nine countries. The countries under investigation included Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, South Korea and the USA.

The initial monitoring started with the compilation of country profiles. For this purpose, a survey was conducted on the structure of resource use, actors, policies and programmes as well as resource efficiency measures. Thus, a monitoring template was developed. It allowed for systematic data collection and provided a simple overview of key approaches, themes and innovations. The information was collected via desktop research, in particular by gathering information from ministries, associations or non-governmental organisations, as well as during interviews with experts in the field.

The research project will be continued until 2022 and the monitoring will be extended to explore additional countries.