A girl collecting sand for sale in Kpogan, Prefecture du Golfe, Togo.
Photo: K. Pratt/FAO

Raw materials use to double by 2060 with severe environmental consequences

The world’s consumption of raw materials is set to nearly double by 2060 as the global economy expands and living standards rise, placing twice the pressure on the environment that we are seeing today, according to a new OECD report.

A preview of The Global Material Resource Outlook to 2060 sees global materials use rising from 90 Gigatonnes today to 167 Gigatonnes in 2060 as the world population soars to 10 billion people and average global income per capita rises to converge with the current Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) level of USD 40,000.

The report projects a doubling of global primary materials use between today and 2060. Population and converging per capita income growth drive the growth in materials use. However, structural change, especially in non-OECD countries, and technology improvements partially dampen that growth. Metals and non-metallic minerals are projected to grow more rapidly than other types of materials.

This report presents global projections of materials use and their environmental consequences, providing a quantitative outlook to 2060 at the global, sectoral and regional levels for 61 different materials (biomass resources, fossil fuels, metals and non-metallic minerals). It explains the economic drivers determining the decoupling of economic growth and materials use, and assesses how the projected shifts in sectoral and regional economic activity influence the use of different materials. The projections include both primary and secondary materials, which provides a deeper understanding of what drives the synergies and trade-offs between extraction and recycling.

Without concrete actions to address these challenges, the projected increase in the extraction and processing of raw materials is likely to worsen pollution of air, water and soils, and contribute significantly to climate change. The increase is to come despite a shift from manufacturing to service industries and continual improvements in manufacturing efficiency, which has lessened the amount of resources consumed for each unit of GDP. Without this, environmental pressures would be worse. The projection also takes account of flattening demand in China and other emerging economies as their infrastructure booms end.

Developing economies face biggest rise in resource consumption

The preview report presented at the World Circular Economy Forum in Yokohama, Japan, by OECD Deputy Secretary General Masamichi Kono, says the biggest rises in resource consumption will be in minerals, including construction materials and metals, particularly in fast-growing developing economies.
Non-metallic minerals, such as sand, gravel, limestone and crushed rock account for more than half of total materials consumed today in Gigatonne terms. Adding other materials, the total raw materials consumed by an average family in a day would fill up a bathtub. These volumes will only become larger between now and 2060, the report says.

The recycling industry, currently a tenth the size of the mining sector in terms of GDP share, is likely to become more competitive and grow, but it will remain a much smaller industry than mining primary materials.

The report’s global environmental impact analysis of the extraction and production of seven metals (iron, aluminium, copper, zinc, lead, nickel and manganese) plus building materials concrete, sand and gravel shows significant impacts in areas like acidification, air and water pollution, climate change, energy demand, human health and toxicity of water and land.

Within this group of metals and minerals, copper and nickel tend to have the greatest per-kilo environmental impacts, while iron, steel and concrete have the highest absolute impacts due to the large volumes used.

The extraction and burning of fossil fuels and the production of iron, steel and building materials are already major contributors to air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. In the absence of new emissions-cutting policies, the report says that overall emissions from materials management will grow from 28 to 50 Gigatonnes of CO2-equivalent by 2060.

The full report is to be published in late November 2018.

(OECD/db)

 

More information:

Download Preview of the report The Global Material Resource Outlook to 2060
 

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