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Build more with less to achieve greater material efficiency say academics

06/02/2013

The latest issue of ‘Philosophical Transactions A’, an academic journal of the UK-based scientific fellowship academy, The Royal Society, focuses on the practicalities of shifting towards a more resource efficient society. Entitled ‘Material efficiency: providing material services with less material’, the collection of papers suggests that governments will need to introduce radical new policies to change the way things are made in order to keep up with the increasing global demand for resources. Read more...

 

The journal provides an overview of current thinking on the topic of material efficiency, spanning environmental, engineering, economics, sociology and policy issues. Several papers identify the problem of rising consumption within society as a result of recent prosperity and predicted population growth coupled with the associated impacts on natural resources posed by the world’s changing climate.

A paper by Walter Stahel from the Product-Life Institute in Geneva, calls for ’sustainable taxation’ on resource-hungry goods to help the shift towards a circular economy. He says this will create regional jobs, increase resource security, reduce consumption of non-renewable resources, increase material efficiency and prevent carbon emissions and industrial waste. A paper by Julian Allwood from Cambridge University considers transitions to material efficiency in steel production. It says that demand for steel must be reduced if emissions targets are to be met under climate change legislation and argues that the strategies of material efficiency can achieve this while delivering the same final services.

The journal concludes there are many technical strategies that could immediately bring about greater material efficiency. However, current economic structures and continuing consumer preference for materials mean that ‘intelligent policy’ will be required to stimulate material efficiency. It says there is a role for governments in transforming the structure of the economy , for example by adjusting purchasing policies or existing regulations related to areas such as building design, planning or vehicle standards.

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Philosophical Transactions A

BBC article: ‘Savings needed to meet future demand for resources’ by Roger Harrabin, 28 January 2013

 

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