Nairobi - Extraction of material resources - biomass, fossil fuels and non-metallic minerals - globally could reach 88.6 billion tonnes this year, or three times that used in 1970, the International Resource Panel said. Its report also contained an interesting case study of New Delhi's pollution mitigation strategies.
Since material resource use is likely to then more than double by 2050 on current trends, the global economy must embrace resource efficiency to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, the report said.
With 19 million premature deaths estimated each year due to environmental and infrastructure-related risk factors linked to natural resource use, the report suggests that better and more efficient extraction and use of natural resources could be one of the most effective and cost-effective ways to reduce environmental impacts, including pollution.
Assessing Global Resource Use was released at the Science-Policy-Business Forum, a preliminary event to the UN Environment Assembly, which runs from December 4-6 at UN Environment headquarters here.
The assembly unites over 2,000 heads of state, ministers, business leaders, UN officials and civil society representatives to tackle the global menace of pollution.
The International Resource Panel is a group of eminent scientists specialising in resource management issues established by UN Environment in 2007.
It was asked by the second session of the United Nations Environment Assembly to make available information on the state, trends and outlook of sustainable consumption and production.
The case study on the Indian capital demonstrates how a bundle of strategies that take a systems approach can deliver basic services to about seven million additional people while consuming less than 5% of the total amount of cement and electricity used in the city today.
Such strategies would also avoid over 22% of greenhouse gas and air pollution (PM2.5) emissions and prevent more than 2,500 premature deaths from dirty cooking fuel use alone.
Based on data from over 600 Chinese cities, the special feature demonstrates how circular economy policies combined with urban planning that promotes the exchange of materials and energy across different industry and infrastructure sectors could contribute an additional 15 to 36% towards national greenhouse gas mitigation.
"The amount of natural resources used is closely linked to the amount of final waste and emissions generated through their use," International Resource Panel co-chairs Janez Potocnik and Izabella Teixeira said in a joint statement.
"Effective pollution control must also look to minimize raw material use, thereby decreasing final waste and emissions."
Everyone on earth is affected by pollution, according to the Executive Director's report titled "Towards a Pollution-Free Planet", which the UN Environment Assembly is using as the basis for laying out new action areas.
Over a dozen resolutions are on the table at the assembly, including new approaches to tackle air pollution, which is the single biggest environmental killer, claiming 6.5 million lives each year.
The report focuses on material resources. Subsequent reports, including one slated for 2019, will assess the footprints of all natural resources like materials, land, water and greenhouse gas emissions.
According to the report, growing material use is driven by expanding populations, consumption trends in mainly developed economies and the transformation of developing economies.
Demand for resources has shifted from renewable to non-renewable resources, reflecting the global trend away from traditional towards modern technologies, and from agriculture-based economies to urban and industrial economies.
It says this creates new waste flows - thereby increasing emissions and pollution. For example, data show that the steep increases in demand for ores, like iron, have contributed to sharp rises in greenhouse gas emissions, acidification, aquatic eco-toxicity and emissions of smog-forming substances.
Efficiency in the way resources are extracted and manufactured by industry, used and re-used by people, and recycled and disposed of by all are essential for a sustainable and pollution free planet, the report adds.