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Historical Trends in Abiotic and Biotic Resource Flows in the EU (1990-2010)
Published: 31 October 2013 by MDPI in The 3rd World Sustainability Forum session Environmental Sustainability
Abstract: In its Communication "Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe" the European Commission defined a vision for EU resource consumption by 2050: the economy will have grown compatibly with resource constraints and planetary boundaries, preserving a high standard of living and lowering the environmental impacts. Such vision entails the sustainable management of natural resources, i.e. raw materials, energy, water, air, land and soil as well as biodiversity and ecosystems. In order to support the scientific discussion on the sustainability of resource use and the evaluation thereof, we have analysed the trends of abiotic and biotic resource consumption within the EU27 over the past 20 years. Beyond traditional mass-based approaches to resource accounting (e.g. Domestic Material Consumption DMC and Domestic Extraction Used, DEU), our assessment is twofold: accounting for the biophysical flows of resources and assessing the impact associated to the flows, , using different life-cycle impact assessment methods (LCIA) for resource depletion and scarcity. The resources considered in the analysis include only those extracted in EU territory, including: raw materials (metals and minerals), energy carriers and biotic resources and the timeframe is 20 years (1990-2010). The final aim is the assessment of the evolution of resource flows in the economy and the related resource depletion due to European production and consumption. Trends of resource production and associated depletion as well as other existing indicators for monitoring resource efficiency are reported and analysed with the aim of: highlighting the occurrence of decoupling over time, both in absolute and relative terms; and giving a comprehensive overview of trends related to different resources, usually handled separately in the existing literature. To complete the sustainability assessment of resource consumption research needs are listed, particularly concerning the need ofOPEN ACCESS complementing the study with the analysis of socio-economic drivers underpinning the resource consumption trends.
Keywords: Resource consumption, resource efficiency, decoupling, indicators, material resources