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We need a resources revolution

‘A systemic reform of resource use’ is urgently needed to fight the climate crisis and biodiversity loss, according to a new report released at the UN Environment Assembly.

The report says “the extraction and processing of materials, fuels and food make up about half of total global greenhouse gas emissions and more than 90% of biodiversity loss and water stress”. Compiled by the International Resource Panel, Global Resources Outlook 2019 ‘examines the trends in natural resources and their corresponding consumption patterns since the 1970s’.

“The Global Resources Outlook shows that we are ploughing through this planet’s finite resources as if there is no tomorrow, causing climate change and biodiversity loss along the way,” said Joyce Msyua, Acting Executive Director of UN Environment. “Frankly, there will be no tomorrow for many people unless we stop.”

Taking historical and current trends, the report projects forward to 2060, predicting that between 2015 and 2060 there will be a 110% jump in natural resource use, resulting in 10% of forests being lost and a drastic reduction in other habitats. This is terrible news for climate change ‘as there would be an increase in greenhouse gas emissions of 43%’.

The report is a wake-up call to policymakers to step up actions that can accelerate the transition to a sustainable economy. “What is needed is a move from linear to circular flows through a combination of extended product life cycles, intelligent product design and standardisation and reuse, recycling and remanufacturing,” the report states.

“Modelling undertaken by the International Resource Panel shows that with the right resource efficiency and sustainable consumption and production policies in place, by 2060 growth in global resource use can slow by 25%, global domestic product could grow 8% – especially for low- and middle-income nations – and greenhouse gas emissions could be cut by 90% compared with projections for continuing along historical trends,” the Co-Chairs of the Panel, Izabella Teixeira and Janez Potočnik, wrote in the joint preface to the report.

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