Global natural resources are vital to the development and survival of mankind. Some of the resources like minerals, species and habitats are finite. Others, such as air and water are vulnerable in terms of absorption capacity of pollutants; plants and wood are renewable but not infinite.
The worldwide supply of resources for mankind is limited and its natural base is gradually being exhausted. Growth of population and changing lifestyles implies growing global demand. This pressurizes the environment and increases conflicts resulting from resource competition. Natural resources underpin our current economic system and are fundamental to satisfy our basic needs for health, well-being and quality of life. Thus, it is essential to respect the natural limits of the planet's key ecosystems. Continuing our current patterns of excessive resource use is not an option. The question is how to ensure high living-standards and growth independent from further resource depletion.
One answer is resource efficiency, which means using globally limited resources in a sustainable manner. The EU-initiative for a resource-efficient Europe under the Europe 2020 strategy supports the shift towards a resource-efficient low-carbon economy in order to achieve sustainable growth. Increasing resource-efficiency is one key factor for securing living-standards and jobs in Europe. It will bring major economic opportunities, improve productivity, decrease costs and boost competitiveness. The initiative for a resource-efficient Europe provides a long-term framework for actions in many policy areas such as supporting policy agendas for climate change and climate protection, sustainable energy production and consumption, sustainable transport, cleaner production in industry, using renewable materials, sustainable agriculture and nutrition, biodiversity and regional development.
Another answer is “urban mining”- the process of reclaiming compounds and elements from products, buildings and waste. As the processing of recycled material requires less energy than the processing of ore, recycling also saves on carbon emissions. Overall, while recycling cannot meet all of our needs, there is still much unused potential. Apart from recycling, resource efficiency and substitution also play an important role in easing the dependence on primary raw materials and import dependency.
The key questions for ERSCP Topic Resources are
- What does the peak and scarcity of metals and minerals mean for Europe?
- What are the technological possibilities of supply chain management and the efficiency of processes and manufacturing, dematerialization, low carbon society, green economy and circular economy?
- How can assessment methods be improved and widely applied? What is the practical performance of tools and indicators like Life Cycle Analysis, ecological footprint, carbon footprint, water footprint, resource use indicators and oil-related indicators?
- What is the effect on the social dimension like new economic approaches beyond growth, values and lifestyles and consumer behaviour?
- What are adequate information systems for product information, youth involvement, awareness rising for resource limits and sustainable resource management?