Climate change

Global Resources Outlook 2019 – Natural Resources for the future we want

UNEP March 2019

Full report here


Executive Summary
The international community has set ambitious goals for
global prosperity and protecting the planet, including the
achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and
environmental conventions such as the United Nations
Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the
Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the United
Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).
Progress towards these ambitions is in our grasp – but
a fundamental change in how natural resources are
used around the world is necessary if these objectives
are to be achieved. Natural resources are used to build
infrastructure and drive economic progress, but they also
have consequences in terms of negative impacts for the
environment and human well-being.
Fundamental change is embodied in the principles of
sustainable consumption and production, which address
the entire life cycle of economic activities from the
extraction of natural resources, through the production
and use phase of products and goods, and finally to
the disposal of resources. Harnessing this change
will promote a sustainable transition to a world where
economic development is pursued while negative impacts
to the environment and humans are reduced in absolute
terms (in other words, decoupling).
Decoupling occurs when resource use or a pressure on
the environment or human well-being grows at a slower
rate than the activity causing it (relative decoupling) or
declines while the economic activity continues to grow
(absolute decoupling) (IRP, 2011). Absolute decoupling
in high-income countries can lower average resource
consumption, distribute prosperity equally and maintain a
high quality of life. Relative decoupling in developing and
economies in transition can raise average income levels
and eliminate poverty, while still increasing levels of natural
resource consumption until a socially acceptable quality of
life is achieved. While past IRP reports have focused largely
on decoupling resource use and impacts from economic
growth, this report also considers another dimension of
decoupling: well-being decoupling. Well-being decoupling
means increasing the service provided or satisfaction of
human need per unit of resource use.
The Drivers-Pressures-State-Impact-Response (DPSIR)
framework is one type of systems approach that can be
used to analyse how society is using natural resources
and the various implications of this use. This report is
structured along the DPSIR framework, with Chapter 2
describing the drivers and trends of materials, land, and
water resources use and explaining how these create
pressures on the environment. Chapter 3 continues
the analysis through the lens of life cycle assessments.
It takes the results from Chapter 2 and calculates the
environmental impacts generated from the extraction
and processing of these natural resources. Chapter 4 then
provides two different outlooks – one based on Historical
Trends and the other modelling the effects of concerted
policy and societal actions to drive a transition Towards
Sustainability. Finally, Chapter 5 reflects on the messages
of chapters 2, 3 and 4, and then offers recommendations
to policymakers, the private sector, and civil society that
can support innovations for environmental challenges and
sustainable consumption and production.

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