More sustainable use of materials and energy would add an extra USD 2 trillion to the global economy by 2050.<br/> Photo: ©IFAD/Rindra Ramasomanana

More sustainable use of materials and energy would add an extra USD 2 trillion to the global economy by 2050.
Photo: ©IFAD/Rindra Ramasomanana

Global resource use in 2050 could be reduced significantly

If current trends continue, annual resource use per capita will grow by over 70 per cent by mid-century. According to experts from the International Resource Panel 2050, with resource efficiency measures the level of resource use could be nearly 30 per cent lower.

Smarter and more efficient use of the world’s natural resources today means the next generation will reap annual economic benefits of USD 2 trillion by 2050, while offsetting the costs of ambitious climate change action, research by the International Resource Panel shows. This was reported by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in March 2017.

The global population is set to grow by 28 per cent and is predicted to use 71 per cent more resources per capita by 2050. Without urgent steps to increase efficiency, the global use of metals, biomass, minerals such as sand, and other materials will increase from 85 to 186 billion tonnes per year by 2050.

The researchers found that while investment in ambitious climate action would cause a 3.7 per cent fall in per capita Gross World Product by 2050, this cost to the economy could be offset by more efficient use of resources.

The researchers analysed four paths that countries could take over the next three decades, ranging from ‘business as usual’ to a scenario where countries adopt both ambitious climate policies and improve resource efficiency.

They found that increased resource efficiency is practically attainable and that there are substantial areas of opportunity to achieve this. Furthermore, resource efficiency can contribute to economic growth and job creation. Improving resource efficiency is also indispensable for meeting the costs of climate change targets.

The economic gains of resource efficiency will be unevenly distributed. A slower resource extraction would reduce revenues and affect jobs in some industries such as mining and quarrying. But even with these considerations, countries stand to gain more by implementing compensation and transfer policies to ease the transition to more efficient practices, than by continuing to support inefficient activities, according to the researchers.

In addition to economic benefits, the analysis also shows that resource efficiency and climate action would reduce global resource use by around 28 per cent in 2050 compared to current trends.

The researchers of the International Resource Panel published their findings in the report Resource Efficiency: Potential and Economic Implications. Read more at the International Resource Panel website

(UNEP/ile)