The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development previewed a report at the World Circular Economy Forum that projects global material resources demand out to 2060.
The report finds that global consumption of raw materials will nearly double in the next 40 years, with the largest increases being in minerals and metals.
It analyzes key drivers of growth and demand, describes environmental and social impacts from primary material extraction, and outlines linkages to the SDGs.
22 October 2018: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) expects global consumption of raw materials to nearly double in the next 40 years, according to the highlights of a forthcoming report titled, ‘Global Material Resources Outlook to 2060: Economic Drivers and Environmental Consequences.’ The report projects global, sector and regional levels of demand for 61 materials and their environmental consequences.
The projections aim to inform and assess policies that promote a circular economy, OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría notes on page 2. The report categorizes materials as biomass resources, fossil fuels, metals and non-metallic minerals. The largest demand increases, it finds, will be in minerals and metals, including construction materials. An OECD press release notes that non-metallic minerals such as sand and gravel currently account for more than half of the total materials consumed today by gigatonnage.
Absolute decoupling of materials use and environmental degradation from GDP growth, as targeted in SDG 8.4, shows only limited progress.
Analyzing the drivers of growth and demand, the report considers both primary and secondary materials. It acknowledges the growing importance and role of the recycling sector, but expects the sector to remain a significantly smaller industry than mining for primary materials. The report finds that population and per capita income growth will be the key drivers of increased materials use, although technology holds promise to “partially dampen” the increase.
Environmental and social impacts from primary material extraction – particularly around metals such as iron, aluminum, copper, nickel, lead, zinc and manganese – include air and water pollution, climate change, energy demand, human health and toxicity of water and land. While copper and nickel have the largest environmental impact per unit, the larger volumes of iron, steel and concrete produced lead to these three materials having the most significant absolute impact.
On linkages to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the preview report notes that the economic and environmental variables modeled “have a mixed effect” on achieving the SDGs and associated targets. For example, targets on doubling agricultural productivity under SDG 2 (zero hunger) can be reached without new policies. However, absolute decoupling of materials use and environmental degradation from gross domestic product (GDP) growth, as targeted in SDG 8.4, shows only limited progress and a need for more ambitious policies. The impacts span the breadth of the SDGs, with particular significance for climate change (SDG 13), responsible consumption and production (SDG 12) and life on land (SDG 15).
The document was presented at the World Circular Economy Forum, held from 22-24 October 2018 in Yokohama, Japan. The full report will be launched on 27 November 2018. It is accompanied by a data visualization tool. [Publication: Global Material Resources Outlook to 2060: Economic Drivers and Environmental Consequences: Highlights] [OECD Press Release] [Full Report Landing Page]