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International Resource Panel at EU Green Week

Achieving resource efficiency and decoupling in pursuit of climate mitigation and alleviation of air pollution was the focus of the International Resource Panel’s (IRP) session at the 2013 Green Week on air quality.

UNEP’s Arab Hoballah, Chief of the Sustainable Consumption and Production Branch in the Division of Technology, Industry and Economics, chaired a panel discussion on ‘Decoupling economic growth from air pollution and climate change’ with IRP members Prof. Jaqueline McGlade, Prof. Edgar Hertwich and Prof. Ester van der Voet.

Mr. Hoballah explained that the IRP, an independent panel of leading scientists, provided an important source of research for policy makers. Findings from two IRP studies were shared during the session: “low carbon technologies for electricity production, environmental benefits, risks and trade-offs,” and “environmental risks and challenges of anthropogenic metals flows and cycles.”

Professor McGlade described the overall body of work that the IRPhas contributed, saying that the reports produced to date by the panel all aim to help provide a scientific basis for decoupling.

Professor van der Voet then talked about the IRP’s reports on metals, and explained that primary metals production is responsible for 7-8% of total global energy use. She said the panel recommended moving towards secondary metal production – using recycled materials, but insisted that there were actions that could nevertheless be taken in the meantime to reduce the energy intensity of primary production.

Professor Hertwich talked about the panel’s upcoming report on renewable energy. He revealed that the panel had looked widely at what resources were required in the production of renewable energy plants, and what their wider impact on the environment is.

A range of issues were discussed by the panel and audience, and are worth highlight:

  • Need for new science to better understand the inter-relations and nexus to better support decision making;
  • Importance of systemic and small changes which multiplier effect can deliver a great change;
  • Importance of integrated and comparative life cycle approaches;
  • Need to increasingly consider secondary production as the main source of metal, resulting in less energy use and reduced air pollution;
  • Opportunities of combined metals when recycling; Importance of improved design of products to reduce use of material and use of energy.

> A full video of the session is available here


The International Resource Panel (IRP) was established in 2007 to provide independent, coherent and authoritative scientific assessment for policy-makers on the sustainable use of natural resources and the environmental impacts of resource use over the full life cycle. UNEP hosts the secretariat for the IRP. For more information see www.unep.org/resourcepanel

The Panel is grateful for the strong and continuous support from the European Union through the Strategic Cooperation Agreement signed between UNEP and the Directorate General Environment under the Thematic Programme for Environment and Sustainable Management of Natural Resources including Energy (ENRTP).


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1 July 2013

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