Global Material Flows and Resource Productivity: Forty Years of Evidence

12 Pages Posted: 6 Aug 2018

See all articles by Heinz Schandl

Heinz Schandl

Government of the Commonwealth of Australia - CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation)

Marina Fischer‐Kowalski

Alpen-Adria-University Klagenfurt

James West

Government of the Commonwealth of Australia - CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation)

Stefan Giljum

Vienna University of Economics and Business

Monika Dittrich

Vienna University of Economics and Business

Nina Eisenmenger

Alpen Adria University - Institute of Social Ecology

Arne Geschke

The University of Sydney - Center for Integrated Sustainability Analysis (ISA)

Mirko Lieber

Vienna University of Economics and Business

Hanspeter Wieland

Vienna University of Economics and Business

Anke Schaffartzik

Alpen Adria University - Institute of Social Ecology

Fridolin Krausmann

Alpen Adria University - Institute of Social Ecology

Sylvia Gierlinger

Alpen-Adria-University Klagenfurt

Karin Hosking

Government of the Commonwealth of Australia - CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation)

Manfred Lenzen

The University of Sydney - Center for Integrated Sustainability Analysis (ISA)

Hiroki Tanikawa

Nagoya University - Graduate School of Economics

Alessio Miatto

Nagoya University

Tomer Fishman

Nagoya University

Date Written: August 2018

Abstract

The international industrial ecology (IE) research community and United Nations (UN) Environment have, for the first time, agreed on an authoritative and comprehensive data set for global material extraction and trade covering 40 years of global economic activity and natural resource use. This new data set is becoming the standard information source for decision making at the UN in the context of the post‐2015 development agenda, which acknowledges the strong links between sustainable natural resource management, economic prosperity, and human well‐being. Only if economic growth and human development can become substantially decoupled from accelerating material use, waste, and emissions can the tensions inherent in the Sustainable Development Goals be resolved and inclusive human development be achieved. In this paper, we summarize the key findings of the assessment study to make the IE research community aware of this new global research resource. The global results show a massive increase in materials extraction from 22 billion tonnes (Bt) in 1970 to 70 Bt in 2010, and an acceleration in material extraction since 2000. This acceleration has occurred at a time when global population growth has slowed and global economic growth has stalled. The global surge in material extraction has been driven by growing wealth and consumption and accelerating trade. A material footprint perspective shows that demand for materials has grown even in the wealthiest parts of the world. Low‐income countries have benefited least from growing global resource availability and have continued to deliver primary materials to high‐income countries while experiencing few improvements in their domestic material living standards. Material efficiency, the amount of primary materials required per unit of economic activity, has declined since around 2000 because of a shift of global production from very material‐efficient economies to less‐efficient ones. This global trend of recoupling economic activity with material use, driven by industrialization and urbanization in the global South, most notably Asia, has negative impacts on a suite of environmental and social issues, including natural resource depletion, climate change, loss of biodiversity, and uneven economic development. This research is a good example of the IE research community providing information for evidence‐based policy making on the global stage and testament to the growing importance of IE research in achieving global sustainable development.

Keywords: environmental policy, global material flows, industrial ecology, material flow accounting (MFA), resource productivity, trade

Suggested Citation

Schandl, Heinz and Fischer‐Kowalski, Marina and West, James and Giljum, Stefan and Dittrich, Monika and Eisenmenger, Nina and Geschke, Arne and Lieber, Mirko and Wieland, Hanspeter and Schaffartzik, Anke and Krausmann, Fridolin and Gierlinger, Sylvia and Hosking, Karin and Lenzen, Manfred and Tanikawa, Hiroki and Miatto, Alessio and Fishman, Tomer, Global Material Flows and Resource Productivity: Forty Years of Evidence (August 2018). Journal of Industrial Ecology, Vol. 22, Issue 4, pp. 827-838, 2018. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3226027 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jiec.12626

Heinz Schandl (Contact Author)

Government of the Commonwealth of Australia - CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation)

41 Boggo Rd
Dutton Park, Queensland
Australia

Marina Fischer‐Kowalski

Alpen-Adria-University Klagenfurt

Universitätsstrasse 65-67
Klagenfurt, Corinthia A-9020
Austria

James West

Government of the Commonwealth of Australia - CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation)

41 Boggo Rd
Dutton Park, Queensland
Australia

Stefan Giljum

Vienna University of Economics and Business ( email )

Welthandelsplatz 1
Vienna, Wien 1020
Austria

Monika Dittrich

Vienna University of Economics and Business

Welthandelsplatz 1
Vienna, Wien 1020
Austria

Nina Eisenmenger

Alpen Adria University - Institute of Social Ecology ( email )

Schottenfeldgasse 29, A-1070
Vienna
Austria

Arne Geschke

The University of Sydney - Center for Integrated Sustainability Analysis (ISA)

School of Physics, A28
The University of Sydney
Sydney, NSW 2006
Australia

Mirko Lieber

Vienna University of Economics and Business

Welthandelsplatz 1
Vienna, 1020
Austria

Hanspeter Wieland

Vienna University of Economics and Business

Welthandelsplatz 1
Vienna, 1020
Austria

Anke Schaffartzik

Alpen Adria University - Institute of Social Ecology ( email )

Schottenfeldgasse 29, A-1070
Vienna
Austria

HOME PAGE: www.aau.at/sec

Fridolin Krausmann

Alpen Adria University - Institute of Social Ecology ( email )

Schottenfeldgasse 29, A-1070
Vienna
Austria

Sylvia Gierlinger

Alpen-Adria-University Klagenfurt

Universitätsstrasse 65-67
Klagenfurt, Corinthia A-9020
Austria

Karin Hosking

Government of the Commonwealth of Australia - CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation)

41 Boggo Rd
Dutton Park, Queensland
Australia

Manfred Lenzen

The University of Sydney - Center for Integrated Sustainability Analysis (ISA)

School of Physics, A28
The University of Sydney
Sydney, NSW 2006
Australia

Hiroki Tanikawa

Nagoya University - Graduate School of Economics ( email )

1 Furo-cho
Chikusa-ku
Nagoya, 464-8601
Japan

Alessio Miatto

Nagoya University ( email )

Furo-cho, Chikusa-ku
Nagoya-City, 4648601
Japan

Tomer Fishman

Nagoya University ( email )

Furo-cho, Chikusa-ku
Nagoya-City, 4648601
Japan

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
1
Abstract Views
110
PlumX Metrics