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Resource Productivity Dynamics: a Cross-Country Overview and Policies

Contribution to the 3rd International Wuppertal Colloquium on „Sustainable Growth and Resource Productivity – Harnessing Industry and Policy Towards Eco-Innovation”, Brussels, Sep 4 – 6, 2010

Raimund Bleischwitz, September 2010

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Summary :

The paper summarizes recent empirical trends on resource productivity dynamics in a crosscountry overview, and it outlines a resource policy that seeks to enhance resource productivity. Main focus is the European Union. The empirical trends underline the wellknown trend of decoupling the use of natural resources from GDP and ensuing gains of material productivity and resource productivity. However the dynamics from 2000 – 2007 has

slowed down compared to the nineties and falls behind aims of accelerating resource efficiency by 3 %/a. The EU new member states show an annual increase that is slightly higher than in the EU-15 states; however the energy productivity gains outweigh material productivity by far. Interesting to note that the price increases on international raw material markets does not seem to have had much effect on material productivity.

A rational for policies stems from a demand to increase such sluggish material productivity growth as well as from indications on environmental damages occurring along material flows. Increasing Total Material Requirements associated with imports in the EU indicate a burden

shifting into countries outside the EU, i.e. a case for international policy approaches. In general, it is both the environmental and the innovation perspective that legitimate policies.

The paper outlines a rational for such policies and develops guidelines for policies and a transition management towards resource-efficient economies. It furthermore describes instruments such as a tax on construction minerals, an ecologically differentiated VAT tax, an international covenant for metals and an international convention for sustainable resource management. Such instruments won’t be introduced in short term, but may well become a

topic at the forthcoming Rio+20 Earth Summit in 2012. For short term policy demand the paper pledges for a technology platform on resource-light construction, a trust funds for ecoentrepreneurship and a programme to speed up eco-innovation and material efficiency across business.