Resource productivity statistics

Data extracted in July 2020.

Planned article update: March 2021.

Highlights

Resource productivity in the EU economy increased by around 36 % since the year 2000.

EU-27 resource productivity in comparison to GDP and DMC, 2000-2019

This article presents recent statistics on resource productivity in the European Union (EU) and its Member States. Since the year 2000, the EU’s resource productivity has increased by around 36 %.

Resource productivity quantifies the relation between economic activity - expressed by gross domestic product (GDP) - and the consumption of material resources - measured as domestic material consumption (DMC) which is an indicator derived from economy-wide material flow accounts (EW-MFA).

Resource productivity is the lead indicator of the ‘resource efficiency scoreboard’.

Full article

Resource productivity of the EU-27 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 expressed in chain-linked volumes is used for comparisons over time as it shows the development of the economic aggregate excluding inflation;
  • GDP expressed in current prices converted into purchasing power standards (PPS), is used for cross-country comparisons in a specific year as PPS remove differences in price levels between countries.
Figure 1: Resource productivity in comparison to GDP and DMC, EU-27
Source: Eurostat (nama_10_gdp) (env_ac_mfa) (env_ac_rp)


Table 1: Resource productivity by country
Source: Eurostat (env_ac_rp)

Since 2000, the resource productivity in the EU-27 economy increased by around 36 % (see Figure 1 and Table 1). The financial and economic crises (2008-2009) had a clear influence on the development path of the EU's resource productivity. After a moderate growth in the pre-crisis era, resource productivity had a marked increase during the crisis due to a very sharp decrease of DMC. The DMC fall was more pronounced than the decrease of GDP: the crisis affected the material-intensive industries of manufacturing and construction more than the rest of the economy, such as services industries.

At Member State level, resource productivity developed quite differently (see Table 1). It increased in nearly all countries between the year 2000 and today. Resource productivity more than doubled in Ireland and Spain.

Variation of resource productivity across EU Member States

Expressed in GDP in PPS over DMC, the resource productivity amounts to 2.20 euro/kg for the aggregated EU-27 economy in 2019. The ratio varies considerably across EU Member States from less than 1 €/kg in Bulgaria, Estonia and Romania) to more than 3 €/kg in Belgium, Spain, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands (see Table 2).

Figure 2 is a scatterplot presenting DMC against GDP levels. There is no clear linear relationship between GDP and DMC. There are countries with low GDP and high DMC, (e.g. Bulgaria, Romania) but also countries with high GDP and low DMC (e.g. Netherlands).

Figure 2: Resource_productivity,_cross_country_comparison,_2019
Source: Eurostat (nama_10_gdp) (demo_gind) (env_ac_mfa)


Table 2: Resource_productivity,_GDP_and_DMC,_by_country,_2019
Source: Eurostat (nama_10_gdp) (demo_gind) (env_ac_mfa)

DMC and GDP growth rates in EU-27 and Member States - decoupling issues

Looking at the long term change rates of DMC and GDP provides insights on the degree of decoupling between DMC (pressure on the environment) and GDP (economic growth). Figure 3 illustrates how far decoupling has been achieved in the EU economy. The diagonal line represents identical change rates of both GDP and DMC. Countries which find themselves above this diagonal line had higher DMC growth than GDP growth and did not de-couple the two. Below the diagonal line are all countries whose GDP increased faster than their DMC and which thus achieved at least relative decoupling. Absolute decoupling denotes absolute decrease of DMC while GDP grows and was achieved by many European countries over the reporting period, including the EU-27 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 result 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

Figure 3: Changes_of_DMC_GDP_by_country,_2000-2019
Source: Eurostat (nama_10_gdp) (env_ac_mfa)

Source data for tables and graphs

Data sources

This article uses data from economy-wide material flow accounts (EW-MFA), which are one of the European environmental economic accounts (see Regulation (EU) No 691/2011 on European environmental economic accounts).

Economy-wide material flow accounts (EW-MFA) provide an aggregate overview, in thousand tonnes per year, of the material flows into and out of an economy. EW-MFA cover solid, gaseous, and liquid materials, except for bulk flows of water and air. Material inputs into national economies include domestic extraction of material originating from the domestic environment and physical imports originating from other economies. Material outputs from national economies include materials released to the domestic environment (e.g. emissions to air, water and soil) and physical exports to other economies. Material flows within the economy are not represented in EW-MFA.

A variety of material flow-based indicators are derived from EW-MFA amongst which the following:

Domestic material consumption (DMC) measures the total amount, in tonnes, of material directly used in an economy, i.e. by resident businesses, governments and other institutions for economic production or by households. DMC equals the domestic extractions of materials plus imports minus exports. At the same time, DMC is the amount of materials that become part of the material stock within the economy or are released back to the environment in form of e.g. emissions to air.

Resource productivity is defined here as GDP divided by DMC. It is important to note that GDP is expressed in different measurement units, of which the following are used to calculate three different resource productivity ratios. The appropriate choice depends on the context of the analysis:

  • euro per kilogram using chain-linked volume data for GDP, to be used for analysing developments in real terms over time;
  • 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);
  • 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).

See also MFA metadata.

Decoupling

The term decoupling refers to breaking the link between an environmental and an 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

Resource efficiency means using the Earth's limited resources in a sustainable manner while minimising impacts on the environment. It allows to create more with less and to deliver greater value with less input.

A resource-efficient Europe has been 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.

The Communication "Towards a Circular Economy" further promotes a fundamental transition in the EU, away from a linear economy where resources are not simply extracted, used and thrown away, but are put back in the loop so they can stay in use for longer. It sets out measures driving a more efficient use of resources and waste minimisation.

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