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Global Resources Outlook

2019: Natural Resources for the Future We Want – UN calls for urgent rethink as resource use skyrockets

Through a combination of resource efficiency, climate mitigation, carbon removal, and biodiversity protection policies, this report finds that it is feasible and possible to grow economies, increase well-being and remain within planetary boundaries.

Much is at stake as global society approaches the final decade before the Sustainable Development Goals are fixed to be realized in 2030. The international community has set high ambitions for global prosperity, the protection of our biological diversity and land resources, and limiting global warming. Progress towards these ambitions is within our grasp – but a fundamental change in how natural resources are used around the world is necessary to succeed.

Since the 1970s, global population has doubled and global Gross Domestic Product has grown fourfold. These trends have required large amounts of natural resources to fuel economic development and the attendant improvements in human well-being this has brought across the globe. However, these gains have come at a tremendous cost to our natural environment, ultimately impacting human well-being and exacerbating inequalities within and  between countries. 

The analysis and modelling presented in this report are a first attempt to understand the impacts of our growing resource use, and to develop coherent scenario projections for resource efficiency and sustainable production and consumption that decouple economic growth from environmental degradation.  A Historical Trends scenario shows that the current trajectory of natural resource use and management is unsustainable, while a Towards Sustainability scenario shows that implementing resource efficiency and sustainable consumption and production policies promotes stronger economic growth, improves well-being, helps to support more equal distribution of income and reduces resource use across countries. 

The final message of this report is one of hope and optimism. While additional research is needed, an extensive knowledge base from the International Resource Panel about natural resources use and their impacts exists. Well-chosen and coordinated sustainability actions can achieve our international ambitions for prosperity within planetary boundaries. Using the results from this report, multi-stakeholder collaboration, and innovative solutions, we can resource the future we want.


International Resource Panel 2019UN environment 2019

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