Environmental policiesPolicy and Affairs

UN alarm: consumption of raw materials will derail the transition

Anticipations of the Global Resources Outlook Five-Year Report

– At today’s pace, global consumption of raw materials could increase by 60% in the next 35 years, after industrialization, urbanization and population growth have quadrupled in the last 50 years. Unsustainable rhythms for the Planet. For this reason it is not enough to change the way we produce to make it more “green”: it is necessary to reduce demand. This is stated in the five-year report of the UN Global Resource Outlook that will be presented in February and was previewed by the British newspaper Guardian.

The hub of raw material consumption

Part of the problem is transition technologies. Take the example of e-mobility. EVs are the cornerstone for the decarbonisation of transport, but they also increase by 10 times the consumption of critical raw materials compared to endothermic vehicles. If electric cars play their part in bringing us climate neutrality by the middle of the century, resource extraction for EVs will increase 6-fold in just 15 years.

The UN report suggests options not to throw the baby away with the dirty water. Always in the example of electric mobility, the point is not to give up the EVs or slow their spread. If anything, it is also a question of strengthening alternative and complementary solutions to make mobility more sustainable. The authors cite remote work, more efficient local services, low-carbon transport, rail and bicycle mobility.

This same logic fits into any other area considered in the report. The housing crisis in Europe? Instead of planning the construction of new volumes, to reduce the consumption of raw materials and housing criticalities effectively it would be necessary to make better use of empty houses and underused spaces. The result? By systematically adopting the report’s indications, it would be possible to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 80% by 2060 compared to current levels. And at the same time reduce socio-economic inequalities. The consumption of raw materials for the energy sector and for mobility would fall by 40%, while that for the construction sector by 30%. With obvious repercussions on climate and environment.

Today, however, the consumption of raw materials is responsible for 60% of the impact of global warming, 40% of air pollution, and 90% of water stress and biodiversity loss, the report says.

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