International Resource Panel
|Type||Independent scientific panel|
|Key people||Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker and Ashok Khosla (co-chairs)|
The International Resource Panel is a scientific panel of experts that aims to help nations use natural resources sustainably without compromising economic growth and human needs. It provides independent scientific assessments and expert advice on a variety of areas, including:
- the volume of selected raw material reserves and how efficiently these resources are being used
- the lifecycle-long environmental impacts of products and services created and consumed around the globe
- options to meet human and economic needs with fewer or cleaner resources.
The Secretariat of the IRP is hosted by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) through its office in Paris, France.
Structure of the IRP
Supported by a small Secretariat, the International Resource Panel comprises 30 expert members drawn from a wide range of academic institutions and scientific organisations (see table below). It is co-chaired by Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker, former Chairman of the Bundestag Environment Committee, and Ashok Khosla, President of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and founder of the Indian non-profit organisation Development Alternatives. Its Steering Committee includes over 20 governments as well as the EC, OECD, UNEP and civil society organisations including the IUCN, World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and International Council for Science (ICSU).
History of the IRP
While climate change and biodiversity loss have emerged as the world’s most pressing environmental issue in recent decades, both issues are increasingly being seen as symptomatic of a broader problem of overuse of resources and lack of attention to the impacts on the environment they cause. The resources in question include materials (fossil fuels, biomass, construction minerals and metals), water, land and energy.
The 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment found that rapid rises in human demands for natural resources have caused substantial and irreversible loss of biodiversity Our current rate of consumption of resources such as fossil fuels, metals, water and timber, is unsustainable and inequitable. WWF has pointed out that if we continue to consume resources at current levels, by 2050 we will need two planet’s worth of natural materials to support the human race.
The concept of sustainable use of resources was placed on the global governance agenda in 1992 at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development or ‘Earth Summit’ in Rio d’Janiero, Brazil. By 2005, several leading international environmental organisations were undertaking disparate work related to natural resources. The OECD was investigating sustainable materials management, the European Commission put forward a new Strategy on the Sustainable Use of Natural Resources used in Europe and UNEP was conducting detailed studies into the way we use resources and their impacts.
A need for science
As various authorities began shaping policies to encourage sustainable consumption and production, two issues emerged. One was that the field was lacking the kind of rigorous scientific assessments that underpinned research into other environmental disciplines, such as climate change (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), biodiversity (Convention on Biological Diversity) and Ozone (Montreal Protocol). The other was that as raw materials are sourced, processed, manufactured into products, traded and consumed in locations around the world, any scientific assessments would need to be global in scope. Different regions also tended to treat the topic differently, depending on the volume of resources they used, methods they used to process resources and whether they had access to domestic resources or depended on imports.
The IRP was founded in 2007 as a way to address this void and support diverse efforts being made to shift the world towards sustainable consumption and production. By mid-2011, the IRP had released in-depth assessments on decoupling (the concept of separating economic growth from environmental degradation), biofuels, metal stocks, plus priority products and materials.
By providing the best available scientific information on using resources efficiently, the IRP aims to help the world shift to a ‘green economy’, where patterns of consumption and production are sustainable, all citizens have equitable access to resources and the enduring quality of the global commons is assured.
|Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker||International Resource Panel Co-Chair, Former Chairman of the Bundestag Environment Committee|
|Ashok Khosla||International Resource Panel Co-Chair, President, IUCN, and Founder, Development Alternatives, India|
|Jacqueline Aloisi de Larderel||Former Assistant Executive Director (2001–2003), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Director (1987–2003), UNEP Division of Technology, Industry and Economics|
|Stefan Bringezu||Director, Material Flows & Resource Management, Wuppertal Institute, Germany|
|Patrice Christmann||Bureau de recherches géologiques et minières, France|
|Ester van der Voet||Associate professor, Head of Industrial Ecology, Institute of Environmental Sciences (CML), Leiden University, the Netherlands|
|Marina Fischer-Kowalski||Director, Institute of Social Ecology, Faculty for Interdisciplinary Studies, University of Klagenfurt, Austria|
|Thomas Graedel||Professor, Industrial Ecology, Yale University, USA|
|Yvan Hardy||Chief Scientist (2003–2007), Natural Resources Canada|
|Maarten Hajer||Director, Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency; Professor of Public Policy, University of Amsterdam|
|Edgar Hertwich||Professor, Energy and Environmental Systems Analysis, Norwegian University of Science and Technology|
|Lea Kauppi||Director General, Finnish Environment Institute, Finland|
|Jacqueline McGlade||Executive Director, European Environment Agency (EEA)|
|Jeffrey (Jeff) Herrick||info|
|Jeffrey McNeely||Chief Scientist, International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)|
|Yuichi Moriguchi||Professor, Department of Urban Engineering, Graduate School of Engineering, University of Tokyo, Japan|
|Khawar Mumtaz||Director, Shirkat Ghah, Women Resource Centre, Pakistan|
|Walter Pengue||Professor, Periurban Studies Institute (ICO) of the Universidad Nacional de General Sarmiento, Buenos Aires, Argentina|
|Maria Rodrigues||President, Brazilian Society for Ecological Economics, Brazil|
|Anna Bella Siriban-Manalang||Director, Centre for Lean Systems, De La Salle University, The Philippines|
|Maria Amélia Enríquez||Professor, Faculty of Economics, Federal University of Pará, Brazil|
|Sangwon Suh||Assistant Professor, Bren School of Environmental Science & Management, University of California, Santa Barbara|
|Mark Swilling||Professor, Sustainable Development Planning and Management, University of Stellenbosch, Republic of South Africa|
|Kevin Urama||Director, African Technology Policy Studies Network, Kenya|
Steering Committee members
|Canada||Natural Resources Canada|
|Chile||Comisión Nacional del Medio Ambiente|
|China||The Ministry of Environmental Protection|
|Denmark||Danish Ministry of the Environment|
|Egypt||Ministry of State for Environmental Affairs|
|Finland||Ministry of the Environment|
|France||Ministry of Ecology, Energy, Sustainable Development and Regional planning|
|Germany||Federal Ministry for the Environment|
|Hungary||Ministry of Environment and Water|
|India||Ministry of Environment and Forests|
|Indonesia||Ministry of Environment|
|Italy||Ministry for the Environment, Land and Sea|
|Japan||Ministry of Environment|
|Kazakhstan||Ministry of Environmental Protection|
|Mexico||Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources|
|Netherlands||Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment|
|Norway||Ministry of the Environment|
|Russian Federation||Ministry of Natural Resources|
|South Africa||Department of Environment Affairs and Tourism|
|Switzerland||Federal Office for the Environment|
|Tanzania||Ministry of Water and Irrigation|
|Intergovernmental Organisation||Department (if applicable)|
|European Commission||Environment Directorate-General|
|Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)|
|Civil Society Organisation||Department (if applicable)|
|International Council for Science (ICSU)|
|International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)|
|World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD)|
- Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, (2005). Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Synthesis. Island Press, Washington, DC.
- WWF (2006), Living Planet Report.
- Doris A. Fuchs and Sylvia Lorek, Sustainable Consumption Governance: A History of Promises and Failures
- OECD OECD's Work on Sustainable Materials & Waste Management
- European Commission, Sustainable Use of Natural Resources
- UNEP Annual Report 2005 Sustainable Living
- Envirobusiness, New scientific panel on sustainable resource management set up, Accessed 21 May 2011
- UNEP Publications
- Decoupling natural resource use and environmental impacts from economic growth (2011)
- Recycling rates of metals: A status report (2011)
- Assessing the environmental impacts of consumption and production: Priority products and materials (2010)
- Metal stocks in society: Scientific synthesis (2010)
- Towards sustainable production and use of resources: Assessing biofuels (2009)