What’s going on abroad?: Monitoring international resource policies

Introduction: the relevance of resource efficiency and objective of the research project ‘MoniRess’

The current and growing purpose of many countries towards rising prosperity comes along with an increased amount of resources that are needed to facilitate this prosperity. Global raw material extraction has more than tripled since 1970. According to the International Resource Panel of the UN Environment, 85 billion tons of raw materials were extracted worldwide in 2015, on average 11.2 tons per capita, accordingly. Often, intensive resource use is linked to negative social and environmental impacts. The rise in global resource use, thus, has intensified environmental problems such as climate change, soil degradation and the loss of biodiversity. With an increasing world population and continuing economic growth, material use is projected to rise to 180 billion tons in 2050 if current trends continue (UN Environment 2019a, 2019b). Eventually, this would contribute to an even greater increase in global and local environmental impacts.

In this context, policies have been launched at the multinational and national level to promote more efficient and sustainable use of natural resources. Various countries and supranational organisations have formulated policies to promote resource productivity and material efficiency. At the international level, the United Nations International Resource Panel (IRP) released various reports on current state and options of efficient use of resources such as ‘Global Resources Outlook 2019’ (IRP 2019). The G7 has put resource efficiency on its agenda in 2015, which has since become an established field of activity for the G7. OECD offers policy advice on resource efficiency and conducts several projects to inform countries about resource efficiency potentials (BMU 2015). Moreover, in 2017, the G20 Resource Efficiency Dialogue was launched to share best and good practise examples, to exchange knowledge about policy options and to improve the scientific basis (BMU 2017). Also, the European Commission published the Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe (European Commission 2011) and the Circular Economy Action Plan (European Commission 2015). At the national level, Germany ranks among the pioneers in the field of resource

What’s going on abroad? 123 efficiency with the adoption of the German Resource Efficiency Programme (BMU 2012, 2016).

In the meantime, many countries worldwide have started to formulate their own policies to foster efficient and sustainable use of natural resources. However, many policies and measures are not known as they are not at the top of the national agendas but parts of strategies or policies.

Against this background, the German Environment Agency (UBA) launched the research project 'Monitoring international resource policies’ (MoniRess). MoniRess has been carried out and scientifically elaborated between 2016 and 2019 by the ifeu (Institut fur Energie- und Umweltforschung Heidelberg GmbH) in co-operation with GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH).

The research project MoniRess aims at bringing to light the variety of measures and policies, which are fostered, abroad to increase the efficient use of resources. MoniRess seeks at providing detailed, regular and up-to-date syntheses of policies and activities of selected countries in the area of resource efficiency. In line with ProgRess, the focus was set on abiotic raw materials in the value chain stages of production, consumption as well as waste management and recycling.

This paper provides an overview of the monitoring approach developed in the project and presents a summary of main results of the MoniRess monitoring. While the monitoring was implemented using a country perspective, this article structures the monitoring results along the value chain. Starting with the overall setting of resource efficiency policies in the countries under study, the article summarises typical approaches and highlights good examples in the area of production, consumption and waste.

Monitoring approach

MoniRess focused on countries, which are not yet analysed regularly, and in detail as e.g. European countries with the series ‘More From Less’ (EEA 2016). The country selection process was based on a screening of 46 countries outside Europe. Criteria for the selection have been, amongst others, the existence of resource efficiency measures or policies. For this monitoring, the countries Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, Republic of Korea and the USA were selected (Dittrich et al. 2020).

As a starting point, individual country profiles were compiled at the beginning of the monitoring in January 2017. Besides, a first survey of the structure of resource use, actors, policies and programs as well as resource efficiency activities, in general, were carried out.

For the quarterly monitoring, a reporting scheme (Figure 11.1) was developed which allows an easy overview of major changes and upcoming issues. The scheme was also used to structure the research during the monitoring phase between 2017 and 2019. The information was gathered based on desktop research, for example, information from ministries and further organisations, as well as based on interviews with local experts.

Reporting scheme for monitoring

Figure 11.1 Reporting scheme for monitoring.

Source: © ifeu; Dittrich et al. (2020).

Given that no common understanding of resource efficiency policy exists at the global level, a tight definition of policies was omitted deliberately. On the contrary, the monitoring seeks at comprising a broad collection covering strategic policies, different measures, specific activities, particular threads and good examples that aim at increasing resource efficiency in the countries.

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