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Sustainable use and management of natural resources.

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EEA Report No 9/2005
Sustainable use and management of natural resources
ISSN 1725-9177XEEA Report No 9/2005
Sustainable use and management of natural resourcesCover design: EEA
Cover photos: © EEA; Source: Pawel Kazmierczyk, 2005
Layout: EEA
Legal notice
The contents of this publication do not necessarily reflect the official opinions of the European
Commission or other institutions of the European Communities. Neither the European Environment
Agency nor any person or company acting on behalf of the Agency is responsible for the use that
may be made of the information contained in this report.
All rights reserved
No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means electronic or mechanical,
including photocopying, recording or by any information storage retrieval system, without the
permission in writing from the copyright holder. For translation or reproduction rights please contact
EEA (address information below).
Information about the European Union is available on the Internet. It can be accessed through the
Europa server (http://europa.eu.int).
Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, 2005
ISBN 92-9167-770-1
ISSN 1725-9177
© EEA, Copenhagen 2005
European Environment Agency
Kongens Nytorv 6
1050 Copenhagen K
Denmark
Tel.: +45 33 36 71 00
Fax: +45 33 36 71 99
Web: www.eea.eu.int
Enquiries: www.eea.eu.int/enquiriesContents
Contents
Acknowledgements .................................................................................................... 4
Summary .................................................................................................................... 5
1 Introduction .......................................................................................................... 9
2 Drivers of resource use ....................................................................................... 11
2.1 Demographic developments ..............................................................................11
2.2 Economic growth .............................................................................................12
2.3 Patterns of development ..................................................................................13
2.4 Growing resource use in the global context ........................................................15
3 Natural resources and their use .......................................................................... 18
3.1 Material flows and material intensity ..................................................................19
3.2 Renewable resources 23
3.3 Non-renew .................................................................................34
4 Policy responses .................................................................................................. 46
4.1 Examples of individual policies 47
4.2 The challenges of policy integration ....................................................................47
4.3 Resource economics and the role of prices .........................................................52
4.4 Implications for competition .............................................................................53
5 Outstanding questions ........................................................................................ 58
Abbreviations and definitions ................................................................................... 63
References .............................................................................................................. 65
3Sustainable use and management of natural resourcesAcknowledgements
Acknowledgements
This report was written by the expert team of the Mr. Andrew Terry, IUCN — The World
European Topic Centre on Resource and Waste Conservation Union, Regional Office for Europe,
Management (ETC/RWM), consisting of Stephan Brussels
Moll, Mette Skovgaard and Philipp Schepelmann. It
was coordinated and edited by Paweł Kaźmierczyk Mr. Bill Duncan, Assurre, Brussels
(EEA), under the general guidance of Jock Martin
(EEA) and Jeff Huntington (EEA). Ms. Caroline Raes, DG Enterprise and Industry,
European Commission
The information and analysis in the report is
based on six background papers compiled and Mr. David Capper, DEFRA, United Kingdom
edited by the ETC/RWM. Background papers on
'general policy issues', 'land use', and 'material Mr. Frans Vollenbroek, DG Environment, European
flows and waste' were prepared by Stephan Moll, Commission
Philipp Schepelmann, Mette Skovgaard, Helmut
Schütz, Stefan Bringezu and Raimund Bleischwitz. Ms. Helen Mountford, Environment Directorate,
A background paper on 'forestry' was written by OECD
Jo Van Brusselen, Markus Lier, Andreas Schuck,
Richard Fischer and Bruce Michie from the Ms. Helga Weisz, IFF-Social Ecology, Klagenfurt
European Topic Centre on Nature and Biodiversity/ University, Austria
European Forest Institute. A background paper
on 'water use' was prepared by Peter Kristensen, Mr. Michael Massey, DTI, United Kingdom
European Topic Centre for Water/Danish National
Environmental Research Institute. A background Mr. Peter Eder, DG Joint Research Centre, European
paper on 'fisheries' was prepared by Gunnar Album Commission
from the Trygg Mat Foundation, Norway.
Mr. René Kemp, University of Maastricht, the
The EEA gratefully acknowledges the contributions Netherlands
of the advisory group set up for this report. The
advisory group, whose extensive knowledge and Mr. Rocky Harris, DEFRA, United Kingdom
experience benefited this work, consisted of:
Mr. Uno Svedin, Director of International Affairs,
Formas, Sweden
Mr. William Floyd, GOPA, European Commission.
4 Sustainable use and management of natural resourcesSummary
Summary
Background from that at the global level. With population
growth limited, the main driving forces are
The EU sixth environment action programme economic growth and the pattern of development.
(6EAP) expressly calls for 'breaking the linkages
between economic growth and resource use'. This The European model of wealth is based on a high
report, which contributes to the EEA's five-year level of resource consumption, including energy
report 'The European environment — State and and materials. Current material consumption in
outlook 2005', was prepared in recognition of the industrialised countries is between 31 and 74 tonnes/
importance of the sustainable use and management person/year (total material consumption), and
of natural resources on the policy agenda. environmentally most significant is the consumption
of materials for housing, food and mobility. The
Given the broad coverage of 'natural resources', average material intensity in the EU-25 is slightly
it was decided to focus on a handful of natural less than in the United States, but twice as high as
resources: fisheries, forestry, water, fossil fuels, in Japan. The picture is similar for energy intensity,
metals and construction minerals, and land use. where the efficiency of the Japanese economy is even
more pronounced.
Global driving forces There are large differences between EU countries.
On average, resource and energy productivity in
The main driving forces of resource consumption western Europe is several times higher than in
are population and economic growth, and the the new EU Member States in central and eastern
pattern of development, broadly defined to include Europe. Material intensity varies from 11.1 kg/EUR
technological level, economic structure, and the of GDP in Estonia to 0.7 kg/EUR in France.
patterns of production and consumption. The
projected 50 % growth in the global population over Some relative decoupling of economic growth
the next fifty years will put a significant pressure on from materials and energy consumption has been
the environment. achieved in many EU countries during the past
decade. This did not necessarily lead to an absolute
If, over the next fifty years, the population of the decrease in environmental pressures, because
developing countries achieves levels of material absolute resource use has generally remained steady
wealth similar to today's levels in industrialised over the past two decades. In part, this decoupling
countries, world consumption of resources would may be due to increased imports of natural
increase by a factor ranging from two to five. resources, substituting for their declining production
or extraction in Europe.
Without dramatic technological improvements or
changes in the patterns of consumption, growth
in resource use and environmental impacts due Measuring the use of resources and its
to increased population and economic growth impact on the environment
in developing countries are likely to outweigh
technological efficiency gains in industrialised High use of natural resources increases the pressure
countries. on these sources (e.g. maintaining the availability
of supplies and ensuring sustainable yields) and on
sinks (e.g. managing the environmental impacts of
European patterns of resource use resource use, and whether ecosystems can absorb
discharges). It is generally accepted that there are
In Europe, the relationship between the main physical limits to continuing economic growth based
driving forces that determine resource use differs on resource use.
5Sustainable use and management of natural resourcesSummary
However, there are many uncertainties in assessing Energy consumption is increasing, mainly because
reserves and the regeneration dynamics of natural of growth in the transport sector, but also in the
resources. The overall consumption of material household and service sectors. At the same time,
resources is known only for a small number of environmental pressures are decoupling from
countries. Eurostat's MFA indicators have been energy use in the EU-15, where fossil fuel-related
compiled for some countries, but the tools to measure emissions of air pollutants (SO , NO , NMVOC,
2 X
resource use and the related environmental impacts is particles) have declined significantly over the past
still at an early stage of development. However, while decade, mainly through the use of end-of-pipe
the world population is growing and industrialisation technology measures. Emissions of CO , however,
2
is increasing rapidly, the availability of natural remain unabated.
resources is not likely to rise dramatically.
Growing global trade, and Europe's increasing
dependence on imports, may lead to problems of
Pressure on natural sources security of supply. In the second half of the 20th
century, the volume of global trade grew by a
Few Europeans suffer from permanent water factor of 6 to 8 for raw materials, and more than
shortages or poor water quality, although the 40 for semi-manufactured and finished goods.
situation varies with time and place — there still are Supply disruptions and shortages could negatively
many locations under threat from human activities, affect the European economy. The likelihood of
leading to overexploitation of aquifers and low conflicts between countries as a result of shortages
quality of surface waters. Overall, there has recently of resources may also increase, as demonstrated by
been a slight decline (8–9 %) in water abstraction in cases involving oil, water access, and fishing rights.
the EU-15. There has been significant progress over
the past two decades in reducing discharges from
point sources such as big cities and industrial plants, Pressure on sinks
but far less in controlling those from diffuse sources,
in particular from agriculture. The global increase in material consumption will
affect the atmosphere, where capacities to absorb
The case of fisheries is a prime example of a CO emissions without a change in climate seem
2
policy effort which has not resulted in sustainable to have been surpassed. Growing volumes of
resource management in practice. About one third municipal and industrial wastes have to be handled.
of global fish stocks are already overexploited. Many metals, such as gold, nickel and copper, are
Most fish stocks in European waters are overfished extracted using environmentally-intensive mining
or fully exploited, mainly due to overfishing, but technologies, which result in large quantities of
also because of coastal and marine pollution, and mining waste, contamination of soils and destruction
changes in ecosystems. During the 1990s, constant of landscape, negative effects on biodiversity and
overfishing threatened fish populations and natural water cycles, and high energy consumption.
provoked conflicts affecting EU Member States.
Extraction of construction minerals, including sand,
Forest is a natural resource with a very long gravel, clay, and limestone, and natural stones,
tradition of sustainable use and management. causes noise and air pollution in addition to most
The area covered by forests in Europe is around of the problems encountered in the extraction of
36 %, and on average, has been increasing by half metals. One particular environmental problem
a million hectares a year in recent years. However, linked with the consumption of construction
European forests showed a continuing deterioration minerals is the transformation of land into built-
in crown condition between 1989 and 1995. Studies up area, resulting in significant losses of the basic
after 1995 show a stabilisation at high defoliation natural functions of the land.
levels, with almost a quarter of the sample trees
rated as damaged in 2003. Although the pressure Currently, 47 % of European land is used for
of acidification on forest ecosystems has decreased, agriculture, 36 % for forestry, and 17 % for other
evidence of impacts of climate change on forestry purposes, including settlements and infrastructure.
has appeared in recent years. Leaving aside the environmental impacts of
agriculture, which are beyond the scope of this
More than 90 % of primary energy supply in the EU report, the three most important threats to European
is based on fossil energy carriers. Each year, almost soils are sealing, erosion, and contamination. In
4 tonnes of fossil fuels are consumed per capita Europe, around 26 million ha are subject to water
in the EU-15, and about half of that is imported. erosion, and about 1 million to wind erosion.
6 Sustainable use and management of natural resourcesSummary
The increase in the rate of sealing has far Ongoing policy debate shows the need for better
outstripped the growth in population. In Germany, integration of environment- and resource-related
for example, the amount of land used for settlements considerations into sectoral and other policy areas.
and infrastructure grew by 93 ha per day in 2003, Recently, EU and some national policies have
with about half of that (equivalent to eighty football increasingly focused on decoupling resource use
fields) being sealed every day. Soil fertility can and environmental impacts from economic growth.
decline very rapidly as a result of contamination, It is generally agreed that the most effective
erosion, or sealing. The time for natural recovery approach will vary depending on the specific
is very long (in central Europe, the rate of soil resource.
generation is about 5 cm in 500 years).
Due to the 'rebound effect,' (incremental gains
in technical efficiency being offset by more
Policy fragmentation widespread consumption), it is unlikely that
resource use can be reduced by technological
Almost every Community policy affects the use improvements alone. The sustainability of current
and management of natural resources. Among the lifestyles and consumption patterns may have to be
most important are the common agricultural policy, critically reviewed. The right price signals are an
the common fisheries policy, regional development effective tool for improving resource efficiency and
policy, and transport and energy policies. A number influencing consumption patterns. For example, the
of cross-cutting environmental strategies address cost of environmental impacts should be factored
the sustainable use and management of resources, into the prices of products and services. It may
including the sustainable development strategy, also be necessary to reduce subsidies that sustain
the 6th environment action programme, and the practices with negative environmental impacts.
planned thematic strategies on the prevention and
recycling of waste and on the sustainable use of
natural resources. However, in the absence of a Implications for competition
coherent resource policy, every policy domain has
tended to develop its own approach to using and While critics argue that environmental protection
managing natural resources. and sustainable management of resources are costly
and reduce competitiveness, a coherent policy
So far, there is no single EU institution responsible response can bring about many positive economic
for coordinating policies to achieve the sustainable effects. Large investments in environmental
management of resources or for collecting the data protection have helped to create around two million
necessary to understand the situation and monitor jobs in the European eco-industry. The industry,
progress. No priority sectors or resources for which accounts for about one-third of the global
policy intervention have been indicated, and few market, is already highly competitive, especially in
quantitative targets have been proposed. the areas of efficient use of fossil fuel energy and
technologies for renewable energy use.
Strategic responses Given the large differences in resource efficiency
between EU countries, there are many opportunities
On the whole, EU environmental policies have for improving the efficiency of the more resource-
resulted in better management of the environmental demanding economies. This could be achieved
impacts of resource use. There have been a number partly by transfers within the EU of today's
of successes of European environmental policies technologies. Increasing the efficiency of resource
since the 1970s, especially in the areas of water and use in sectors with high materials and energy costs
air quality. will directly increase the global competitiveness of
European industries.
However, a main focus of the legislation has been on
industrial point sources of pollution, and the initial Emphasis on material and energy efficiency can also
response from industry has been to resort to 'end-of- help to reduce unemployment, because economic
pipe' measures, which require substantial investment. restructuring and cost-saving strategies traditionally
According to the European Commission's estimates target the labour force first, despite the fact that
for 1990–2010, implementation of seven directives in labour productivity in Europe is already high,
the area of water and air protection will cost some having increased by some 270 % between 1960 and
EUR 230 billion, with additional annual operating 2002, compared with 100 % for materials and barely
costs of around EUR 10 billion. 20 % for energy.
7Sustainable use and management of natural resourcesSummary
Outstanding questions use; focus of policy on environmental impacts or
on scarcity of resources; choice between relative
There have been vigorous discussions among decoupling and dematerialisation/absolute decrease
stakeholders about the priorities or the best of resource use as the main policy goal; what
approach to address the use of natural resources. priority areas or specific resources should be the
Some of the outstanding questions in the policy focus of policy intervention; and how to set targets
debate revolve around the availability of methods and measure progress in sustainable use and
to estimate the environmental impacts of resource management of resources.
Sustainable use and management of natural resources

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