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Sustainable Use of Natural Resources

Preparation of the Thematic Strategy on the sustainable use of natural resources: Expert Workshops and Studies

Expert Workshops

In the course of the preparation of the 6EAP the European Commission requested a number of prominent experts to give their views on the issue of resource management, to explain a number of fundamental concepts and to provide suggestions for appropriate measures to improve resource efficiency.Experts Reports on Resource ManagementA study by GUA (Austria) was commissioned to give an overview of the main scientific concepts in the field of resource management both from the perspectives of classical economics and alternative schools. The report discusses a number of basic definitions in the context of resource management such as the term "resources", weak and strong sustainability and, ownership regimes. The main schools of thought described are: dematerialization (eco-efficiency, factor 4/10), mass flow analysis (MIPS and rucksacks, carrying capacity, ecological footprints), thermodynamics (entropy, energy), classical and neo-classical resource economics, externality valuation, resource accounting and welfare cost-benefit analysis. Finally, it makes proposals for further research. The study was undertaken to provide the basis for discussion at an expert workshop held on 13 July 2000.Analysis of the Fundamental Concepts of Resource ManagementA second expert workshop was held on October 11, 2001. The basis of this workshop was a study by COWI (Denmark) (pdf ~430K) , in which different views are presented on what should/could be done to promote sustainable resources use.



The following studies have been completed:

a) Resource Use in European Countries (Zero Study)This study provides the baseline data on material flows for the further development of the "Resources Strategy". The study was commissioned to the Wuppertal Institute via the European Topic Center on Waste and Material Flows (ETC-WMF). Eurostat has also published a report on 'Material Use in the European Union 1980-2000'. The results of the Zero-Study are going beyond the Eurostat study since it produced two additional data-sets, i.e. Accession Countries and TMR of EU-15.Zero study (pdf~710K)
Data set A (pdf~80K) Excel version (~900K)
Data set B (pdf~210K) Excel version(~1,8M)
Data set C (pdf~130K) Excel version(~350K)b) Public Private Interface

The objectives of this study are:

  • to make an inventory of the policies, objectives, and targets regarding natural resource and waste that have currently been agreed or are in prospect at the EU-level or in Member States/accession countries;
  • to identify the existing or likely impacts of these policy measures and to evaluate their efficiency, highlighting in particular any evidence of regulatory failures;
  • to identify and examine the impact of existing taxes and subsidies in Member States and accession countries on natural resources and wastes.
  • to examine best practice additional policy options that have been proposed to resolve such market and regulatory failures. This should include identifying the best practices in Member States that direct innovation towards sustainable development.

This study seeks to find concrete proposals for target setting and instrumentation based on the experience of Member States. It is carried out by a consortium consisting of the Danish lead organisation of the European Topic Centre on Waste and Material Flows (ETC/WMF), Centre for Economic Analysis (ECON), and the Danish National Environmental Research Institute (NERI), with the latter as the lead partner.

c) Dynamic View on Resources

This study aims to assess the feasibility of decoupling resource use from economic growth. The objectives of this study are:

  • to review the framework of resource regulation, economic structure and environmental impact related to two example resources.
  • to provide data on individual resource use using a life cycle and material flow analysis and to examine prospects up to 2020.
  • to review the impact of likely managerial or technological solutions, such as material substitution, material recovery, and re-use/re-cycling, leap-frog technologies etc.
  • to identify the best pathways (policy mixes, technological solutions, and other tools) through which the objective of de-coupling could occur.
  • to compare and contrast experience and outlook in the two sectors.

Through this study a methodology may be set up which can be used to assess the dynamics of the use patterns of individual resources, including the relationship between the use and the environmental impacts, created at various stages of the life cycle. The study has been commissioned to Entec UK Ltd.

Final report - Annexes - Summary

d) Policy review on decoupling and development of resource productivity indicators;

This study has the following objectives:

  • to identify and explain the reasons for differences in material intensities and patterns of resource use of the EU and ACC;

  • to derive a weighted indicator of material flows that reflects the highest environmental impacts;

  • to identify the land use intensity;

  • to identify a limited set of mass flow and land use indicators that are manageable;

  • to assess whether one or more indicators could be used for benchmarking exercises.

  Final report + Annexes