Resource productivity statistics

Data extracted in June 2016. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned article update: September 2016.

This article presents recent statistics on resource productivity in the European Union (EU) and its Member States. The EU’s resource productivity has increased by 35.4 % in the 2000–15 time frame. Whereas resource productivity has slowly increased over the years between 2000 and 2008, the second part of the period shows an overall sharp increase from 2008 to 2015 marked by the economic crisis.

Data on resource productivity are collected in the framework of material flow accounts, for which a more detailed article is available here.

Figure 1: EU-28 resource productivity in comparison to GDP (1) and DMC, 2000-15 (Index 2000=100)
Source: Eurostat (nama_10_gdp) (env_ac_mfa)
Table 1:Resource productivity - GDP (¹) DMC by country, 2000-15 (Index 2000 = 100)
Source: Eurostat (env_ac_mfa)
Figure 2: Resource productivity (¹), cross-country comparison, 2015
Source: Eurostat (nama_10_gdp) (demo_gind) (env_ac_mfa)
Table 2:Resource productivity, GDP(¹) and DMC, by country, 2015
Source: Eurostat (nama_10_gdp) (demo_gind) (env_ac_mfa)
Figure 3: DMC and GDP (¹) average annual change rates in EU-28 and countries between 2000 and 2015 (%)
Source: Eurostat (nama_10_gdp) (env_ac_mfa)

Main statistical findings

Resource productivity of the EU-28 and across Member States over time

Resource productivity is measured as gross domestic product (GDP) over domestic material consumption (DMC). Two different versions of GDP are used in this article. GDP at market prices expressed in chain-linked volume is used for comparisons over time as it shows the development of the economic aggregate excluding inflation. GDP at market prices expressed in current prices, purchasing power standards (PPS), is used for cross-country comparisons in a specific year as PPS remove differences in price levels between countries.

Resource productivity in the EU-28 economy increased by 35.4 % between 2000 and 2015 (see Figure 1 and Table 1). Starting from the economic crisis (-4.4 % in GDP in 2008-09) the significant increase in resource productivity (25.2 %) in the period 2008-15 was caused mostly by a 18.2 % fall of DMC in the same period. The crisis affected the material-intensive industries of manufacturing and construction more than the services industries. Material consumption therefore fell more than GDP, which recovers as of 2009. From 2000 to 2015, the EU Member States’ resource productivity developed quite differently (see Table 1), although it increased in nearly all countries except for Estonia, Malta and Romania.

Variation of resource productivity across EU Member States

Expressed in GDP in PPS over DMC, the resource productivity amounts to 2.18 PPS/kg for the aggregated EU-28 economy in 2015. The ratio varies considerably across EU Member States from 0.65 PPS/kg in Bulgaria to 3.51 PPS/kg in the UK.

Figure 2, plotting DMC against GDP, reveals a clear correlation between resource use (DMC per capita) and GDP (in PPS per capita): a U-shaped relationship between DMC per capita and GDP per capita across countries, i.e. the environmental pressure decreases up to a certain level as GDP per capita rises; afterwards, the turning point being Italy and Spain, material consumption per capita increases as the level of economic activity per capita keeps increasing. Table 2 provides data source for Figure 2.

DMC and GDP growth rates in EU-28 and Member States between 2000 and 2015 and decoupling issues

When the average annual change rates of DMC and GDP are considered, decoupling between the pressure on the environment and the economic activity can be investigated. Figure 3 illustrates how far decoupling has been achieved in the EU economy. The diagonal line represents same average change rates of both, GDP and DMC between 2000 and 2015. Countries which find themselves above this diagonal line had higher DMC growth than GDP growth and did not de-couple. Below that diagonal line are all countries whose GDP increased faster than their DMC and which thus achieved at least relative decoupling. Absolute decoupling, i.e. below the x-axis where GDP grows and DMC falls, was achieved in the majority of European countries over the period, including the EU-28 economy as a whole.

It is important to note that this outcome should be further investigated as the economic crisis proved decisive to determine it and could also be the results of outsourcing material-intensive production to other parts of the world. However, those aspects of dislocated environmental pressures through trade are not covered by the DMC indicator. More comprehensive data which reflect materials embodied in trade can be found in Material flow accounts - flows in raw material equivalents

Data sources and availability

This article uses data from the economy-wide material flow accounts (EW-MFA), which are one of the European environmental economic accounts. Environmental accounts analyse the interaction between the environment and the economy by organising environmental information in a way that is consistent with the accounting principles of national accounts. This makes it possible to look at many questions, for example: to identify which activities are the most polluting or deplete natural resources the most; what is the role of government and households; how expensive is it to protect the environment and who pays for it; how large is the environmental economy in terms of employment or output; how large are the flows of natural resources and energy. The environmental accounts methodology is in line with the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA), which is an international statistical standard.

Economy-wide material flow accounts are based on materials extracted from the environment by national economies (domestic extraction) and by other economies (imports), changes of material stocks within the economy (net additions to stocks), and material outputs to other economies (exports) and/or to the environment (domestic processed output). These accounts are coherent with national accounts in particular concerning the residency of producer units. They cover all solid, gaseous, and liquid materials, except for flows of air and water, which are treated as separate accounts.

Similarly to the national accounts, economy-wide material flow accounts serve multiple purposes. Detailed material flows provide a rich empirical database for numerous analytical studies. They are also used to compile different economy-wide material flow indicators required by policymakers.

Domestic material consumption (DMC)

DMC measures the total amount, in tonnes, of material directly used in an economy, either by businesses, government and other institutions for economic production or by households. DMC is measured in tonnes of extracted natural resources per year. DMC equals the extractions of materials used by producer units in the economy plus imports — called direct material input (DMI) — minus exports.

Resource productivity

Resource productivity is defined here as GDP at market prices divided by DMC. GDP is measured using chain linked volumes; volume figures show the development over time excluding inflation and may be referred to as showing developments in real terms. The use of a volume series of GDP is important as the DMC used in the calculation of resource productivity is not directly affected by inflation. By using a volume series of GDP, the resulting resource productivity is also an indicator in real terms, and is presented in EUR/kg.

Depending on the purpose of the analysis, resource productivity may also be expressed in:

• euro per kilogram using current price data for GDP, which could be used when analysing a single economy at one point in time (for one particular year);

• PPS per kilogram using current price data for GDP expressed in purchasing power standards (PPS); PPS are artificial currency units that remove differences in purchasing power between economies by taking account of price level differences; these can be used when comparing across different economies at one point in time (for one particular year).

See also Eurostat MFA metadata.

Decoupling

The term decoupling refers to breaking the link between an environmental and economic variable. As defined by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), decoupling occurs when the growth rate of an environmental pressure (for example, DMC) is less than that of its economic driving force (for example, GDP) over a given period. Decoupling can be either absolute or relative. Absolute decoupling is said to occur when the environmental variable is stable or decreases while the economic driving force grows. Decoupling is said to be relative when the rate of change of the environmental variable is less than the rate of change of the economic variable.

Context

Natural resources underpin our economy and our quality of life and many scientists argue that continuing our current patterns of resource use is not an option if the planet is to survive. Increasing resource efficiency is one of the key elements to securing sustainable growth and jobs in the EU and has the potential to bring about economic opportunities, improve productivity, drive down costs and boost competitiveness.

A resource-efficient Europe is one of the flagship initiatives of the Europe 2020 strategy: it supports the shift towards a resource-efficient, low-carbon economy to achieve sustainable growth. It provides a long-term framework for actions in many policy areas, supporting policy agendas for climate change, energy, transport, industry, raw materials, agriculture, fisheries, biodiversity and regional development. It aims to increase certainty for investment and innovation and to ensure that all relevant policies take account of resource efficiency in a balanced manner. Resource efficiency is the lead indicator of this flagship initiative. Resource efficiency and DMC are indicators derived from economy-wide material flow accounts: Regulation (EU) No 691/2011 on European environmental economic accounts provides a framework for the development of various types of environmental accounts.

See also

Further Eurostat information

Publications

Main tables

Database

Dedicated section

Other information

Source data for tables and figures (MS Excel)