International Resource Panel

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International Resource Panel
Formation 2007
Type Independent scientific panel
Key people
Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker and Ashok Khosla (co-chairs)
Parent organisation

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[edit]

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[edit]

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[1] 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.[2]

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 de Janeiro, Brazil.[3] By 2005, several leading international environmental organisations were undertaking disparate work related to natural resources. The OECD was investigating sustainable materials management,[4] the European Commission put forward a new Strategy on the Sustainable Use of Natural Resources used in Europe[5] and UNEP was conducting detailed studies into the way we use resources and their impacts.[6]

A need for science[edit]

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.

International Resource Panel
The International Resource Panel provides scientific assessments related to the use of natural resources

The IRP was founded in 2007[7] 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.[8]

The IRP will publish a further ten assessments over the next 18 months. These will cover topics such as greenhouse gas mitigation technologies, efficiency of water use, trade, plus land and soils.

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.

Reports launched[edit]

Decoupling Natural Resource Use and Environmental Impacts from Economic Growth report

Recycling Rates of Metals report

Priority Products and Materials report

Metal Stocks in Society report

Assessing Biofuels report

Measuring Water Use in a Green Economy

City-level Decoupling: Urban Resource Flows and the Governance of Infrastructure Transitions

Metal Recycling: Opportunities, Limits, Infrastructure

Environmental Risks and Challenges of Anthropogenic Metals Flows and Cycles

Assessing Global Land Use: Balancing Consumption with Sustainable Supply

Panel members[edit]

Name Affiliation
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[edit]

Government Department
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
USA State Department
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)


  1. ^ Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, (2005). Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Synthesis. Island Press, Washington, DC.
  2. ^ WWF (2006), Living Planet Report.
  3. ^ Doris A. Fuchs and Sylvia Lorek, Sustainable Consumption Governance: A History of Promises and Failures
  4. ^ OECD OECD's Work on Sustainable Materials & Waste Management
  5. ^ European Commission, Sustainable Use of Natural Resources
  6. ^ UNEP Annual Report 2005 Sustainable Living
  7. ^ Envirobusiness, New scientific panel on sustainable resource management set up, Accessed 21 May 2011
  8. ^ UNEP Publications

External links[edit]