Cross-cutting key terms

Burden shifting 

 

Burden shifting occurs when consumption and production happen in different places. It means that the impacts driven by consumption are translocated to countries where production takes place. It typically occurs between ‚developed‘ and ‚developing‘ countries.

Related terms:  Problem shifting 

 

 

General 

Circular economy 

 

The circular economy is one in which waste materials and products are reused and recycled within the production and consumption system. It is the better use of waste for new materials. 

 

 

General 

Consumption 

 

The use of products and services for (domestic) final demand, i.e. for households, government and investments. The consumption of resources can be calculated by attributing the life-cycle-wide resource requirements to those products and services (e.g. by input-output calculation). 

 

 

General 

Dematerialization 

 

Dematerialization ultimately describes decreasing the material requirements of whole economies. It requires (a) reducing the materialintensity of products and services, i.e. by increasing material efficiency, and (b) especially reducing the use of primary material resources (such as ores, coal, minerals, metals, etc.) by improving recycling and re-use of secondary materials (i.e. shifting to a circular economy). It is frequently regarded as a necessary condition for the sustainable development of economies and is synonymous with absolute resource decoupling.

 

 

General 

Ecosystem services 

 

Ecosystem services are those functions and processes which ecosystems provide and which affect human well-being. They include (a) provisioning services such as food, water, timber, and fibre; (b) regulating services such as the regulation of climate, floods, disease, wastes, and water quality; (c) cultural services such as recreation, aesthetic enjoyment, and spiritual fulfilment; and (d) supporting services such as soil formation, photosynthesis, and nutrient cycling (MEA 2005).

 

 

General 

Efficiency 

 

Efficiency is a broad concept that compares the inputs to a system with its outputs; it essentially means achieving ―more with less‖. The Resource Panel often refers to resource, material, energy and water efficiency across all levels of society, i.e. the system can refer to a production process (producing more with less) or an entire economy (achieving more usefulness with total input). Efficiency includes activities to improve productivity (value added / input) and minimize intensity (input / value added).

See also: material efficiency, resource efficiency, water efficiency 

 

 

General 

Industrial metabolism 

 

Societies exchange materials and energy with the surrounding natural systems and use them internally for various functions (building structures, providing energy etc.) in a similar way to the metabolism of plants, animals or humans. The ‗inputs‘ in industrial metabolism include resources such as raw materials (including fossil fuels), water, and air. These resource inputs are transformed into products (goods and services) and are finally disposed back to the natural system in the form of outputs; mainly solid wastes, waste water and air emissions (Schütz and Bringezu 2008). The term ―industrial metabolism‖ was coined by Ayres (1989). 

 

 

General 

Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA) 

 

Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA) is the assessment of impacts associated with all life stages of a product or service, i.e. from the cradle to the grave. It focuses on individual product and service systems (distinguishing it from Input-Output analysis) and as such is often used for comparing competing goods. It involves the quantification of all relevant inputs and outputs, so that where the system boundary is drawn may cause differences in the aggregation of total environmental burden and cause controversy, for instance, with the quantification of biofuels (i.e. whether or not to include indirect land use changes).  

 

 

General 

Material flow analysis (MFA)

 

Material flow analysis (MFA) comprises a group of methods to analyse the physical flows of materials into, through and out of a given system. It can be applied at different levels of scale, i.e. products, firms, sectors, regions, and whole economies. The analysis may be targeted to individual substance or material flows, or to aggregated flows, e.g. of resource groups (fossil fuels, metals, minerals). Economy-wide MFA (ewMFA) is applied to whole economies and provides the basis for the derivation of indicators on the metabolic performance of countries in terms of material inputs and consumption (such as DMI, DMC, TMR, TMC). 

 

 

General 

Problem shifting 

 

Problem shifting is the displacement or transfer of problems between different environmental pressures, product groups, countries or over time.  

See also:  burden shifting  

 

 

General 

Rebound effect 

 

The rebound effect happens when a positive eco-innovation on the micro level leads to negative impacts on the meso/macro level. This can happen due to a change in consumer behaviour, i.e. consumers using more of an efficient product, which – at least partly - outweighs the efficiency improvements per unit of that product. 

 

 

General 

Resource decoupling 

 

Resource decoupling means delinking the rate of use of primary resources from economic activity. Absolute resource decoupling would mean that the Total Material Requirement of a country decreases while the economy grows. It follows the same principle as dematerialization, i.e. implying the use of less material, energy, water and land to achieve the same (or better) economic output. 

See also: decoupling, absolute decoupling, relative decoupling 

 

 

General 

Resource efficiency 

 

Resource efficiency is an overarching term describing the relationship between a valuable outcome and the input of natural resources required to achieve that outcome. It is the general concept of using less resource inputs to achieve the same or improved output (resource input/output). It indicates the effectiveness with which resources are used by individuals, companies, sectors or economies. Resource efficiency can be achieved by increasing resource productivity (value added / resource use) or reducing resource intensity (resource use / value added).

See also: efficiency, material efficiency 

 

 

General 

Resource intensity 

 

Resource intensity depicts the amount of natural resources used to produce a certain amount of value or physical output. It is calculated as resource use / value added or as resource use / physical output. Resource intensity is the inverse of resource productivity.

See also: intensity, material intensity 

 

 

General 

Resource productivity 

 

Resource productivity describes the economic gains achieved through resource efficiency. It depicts the value obtained from a certain amount of natural resources. As an indicator on the macro-economic level total resource productivity is calculated as GDP/TMR (OECD 2008). It may be presented together with indicators of labour or capital productivity. Resource productivity is the inverse of resource intensity.

See also: productivity, material productivity 

 

 

General 

Resources 

 

In the context of the Resource Panel, resources refer to the natural resources used by economies. They include abiotic materials (fossil fuels, metals and minerals), biomass, water, and land. In general, resources can be seen as ‗gifts‘ of the natural system that can be used in the economic system, but which are not part of the economic system.

See also: abiotic resources, biotic resources and renewable resources 

 

 

General 

Sustainable Resource Management 

 

Sustainable resource management means both (a) ensuring that consumption does not exceed levels of sustainable supply and (b) ensuring that the earth‘s systems are able to perform their natural functions (i.e. preventing disruptions like in the case of GHGs affecting the ability of the atmosphere to ‗regulate‘ the earth‘s temperature). It requires monitoring and management at various scales. The aim of sustainable resource management is to ensure the long-term material basis of societies in a way that neither resource extraction and use nor the deposition of waste and emissions will surpass the thresholds of a safe operating space.

 

 

General 

Trade-off 

 

Trade-off describes a situation where one option occurs at the expense of another. The Resource Panel describes trade-offs between environmental impacts (e.g. renewable energy technology and critical metal consumption) as well as social, ecological and economic objectives (e.g. cropland expansion and biodiversity loss). 

 

 

General 

 

Work Group specific key terms (5 per workgroup) 

Biofuels

 

Bioenergy 

 

Bioenergy describes all types of biomass used to convert its energy content into useful energy (heat and power). It Includes crops and trees grown specifically for energetic purposes as well as agricultural residues, forest products waste and municipal waste that can be used to provide heat and power for households and industrial processing. 

 

 

Biofuels 

Biofuels 

 

Biofuels are combustible materials directly or indirectly derived from biomass, commonly produced from plants, animals and microorganisms but also from organic wastes. The Resource Panel uses the term biofuel to describe all uses of biomass for energetic purposes, meaning that biofuels may take solid, liquid or gaseous form. When the terms first, second or third-generation biofuels are used, they typically refer to biofuels used in the transport sector.

See also:  first-generation biofuels, second-generation biofuels, thirdgeneration biofuels 

 

 

Biofuels 

Cascading use

 

Cascading use in general means a sequence of use phases with declining product value. Cascading allows the use of materials to be extended. For instance, using biomass as a production material first, then recycling it (several times) before finally recovering the energy content from the resulting waste at the end of its lifecycle. Such cascading systems may provide general advantages for climate change mitigation and ease land use pressure. 

 

 

Biofuels 

Indirect land use change (iLUC) 

 

Indirect land use change is land conversion caused by the displacement of agricultural production. It occurs, for example, when land used for growing a certain food crop or for animal grazing is used for biofuel production, causing cropland expansion elsewhere to grow that food crop or to graze those animals. 

 

 

Biofuels 

Third-generation biofuel 

 

Third-generation biofuels typically refer to algae fuel. Algae are feedstocks from aquatic cultivation for production of triglycerides (from algal oil) to produce biodiesel. The processing technology is basically the same as for biodiesel from second-generation feedstocks. Other third-generation biofuels include alcohols like bio-propanol or biobutanol, which due to lack of production experience are not usually considered to be relevant as fuels on the market before 2050.

See also: biofuels

 

 

Biofuels 

 

Decoupling 

 

Decoupling 

 

In general, decoupling means removing the link between two variables. The Resource Panel often refers to resource decoupling (the delinking of economic growth and resource use) and impact decoupling (the delinking of economic growth and negative environmental impacts). The term double decoupling refers to delinking economic growth from resource use and from environmental impacts. Moreover, decoupling can be relative (e.g. the rate of resource use increase is lower than the rate of economic growth) or absolute (e.g. resource use declines while the economy grows). 

 

 

Decoupling 

Double decoupling 

 

Double decoupling is when economic development is decoupled from resource use and resource use is decoupled from the generation of environmental impacts.

See also: decoupling 

 

 

Decoupling 

Absolute decoupling 

 

Absolute decoupling is a shorthand description of a situation in which resource productivity grows faster than economic activity (GDP) and thus resource use is absolutely declining..

See also:  decoupling, relative decoupling and double decoupling 

 

 

Decoupling 

Relative decoupling 

 

In relative decoupling the growth rate of the environmentally relevant parameter (e.g. resources used or environmental impact) is lower than the growth rate of the relevant economic indicator (for example GDP).

See also:  decoupling 

 

 

Decoupling 

Impact decoupling 

 

Impact decoupling refers to the delinking of economic output and/or resource use from negative environmental impacts.  

See also: decoupling, impacts 

 

 

Decoupling 

 

Environmental Impacts 

Impacts 

 

The term impact is used by the Resource Panel to refer to negative environmental impacts. These are the unwanted side-effects of economic activities and can take the form of a loss of nature or biodiversity, as well as diminished human health, welfare or well-being. Impacts can be intentional  (e.g. land conversion impacts habitat change and biodiversity) or unintentional (e.g. humans may inadvertently alter environmental conditions such as the acidity of soils, the nutrient content of surface water, the radiation balance of the atmosphere, and the concentrations of trace materials in food chains). Impacts occur across all stage of the life cycle, from extraction (i.e. groundwater pollution) to disposal (i.e. emissions). ―Impacts‖ in an LCA-context correspond to ―pressures‖ in the DPSIR framework.

See also: pressures 

 

 

Env Impacts 

Pressure 

 

The Resource Panel uses the term pressure to describe environmental pressures. These are pressures evoked by human activities (commonly tied to the extraction and transformation of materials and energy) that are changing the state of the environment and leading to negative environmental impacts. Priority environmental pressures identified by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment are habitat change, pollution with nitrogen and phosphorus, overexploitation of biotic resources such as fisheries and forests, climate change, and invasive species. 

 

 

Env Impacts 

Driving force – Pressure – State – Impact – Response (DPSIR) framework 

 

The DPSIR framework aims to provide a step-wise description of the causal chain between economic activity (the driver), the pressures (e.g. land use change, emissions of pollutants), changes in the state of the environment (e.g. land cover change, eutrophication) and impacts (such as the loss of nature or biodiversity and diminished human health, welfare or well-being) which leads to a societal response which changes the driving forces in order to reduce the impacts (UNEP 2010b). 

 

 

Env Impacts 

Input-output (I-O) method 

 

Input-output tables describe the interdependence of all production and consumption activities in an economy. In an input-output model, the economy is represented by industry sectors (including resource extraction, processing, manufacturing and service sectors) and final demand categories (including households, government,, investment, export, and stock changes). Integrating information on emissions and resource use caused by sectors and final demand allows ―environmentally extended IO tables (eeIOT)‖ to be provided; these can be used to calculate environmental pressures induced by production sectors or final demand categories in a way a similar to value-added or labour (UNEP 2010b). 

 

 

Env Impacts 

Life-Cycle Impact Assessment 

 

Life-cycle impact assessment is defined as the ―phase of Life-Cycle Assessment aimed at understanding and evaluating the magnitude and significance of the potential environmental impacts of a product system‖ -ISO 14044 (2006) 

 

Env Impacts 

 

Land & Soils

Safe operating practices 

 

Safe operating practices target the sustainability of production on a certain unit of land. As regards agriculture, sustainable practices maintain soil quality and land conditions while sustaining or increasing biomass production. 

 

Land & Soils 

Sustainable supply 

 

Sustainable supply refers to the amount of resources that can be extracted and used for production and consumption before the threshold of a safe operating space is surpassed. At a global scale, (sustainable) levels of production equal (sustainable) levels of consumption. At a local scale, sustainable supply is aimed at by safe operating practises.

See also:  sustainable levels 

 

 

Land & Soils 

Safe operating space 

 

 

Safe operating space is a concept developed by Rockström et al. (2009) that reflects a corridor for human development where the risks of irreversible and significant damage to global life-sustaining systems seem tolerably low. 

 

 

Land & Soils 

Sustainable levels (of resource consumption) 

 

 

Sustainable levels refer to the amount of resources that can be consumed before the threshold of a safe operating space is surpassed. Sustainable levels of consumption require (a) globally acceptable resource extraction and (b) fair distribution. While sustainable levels typically refer to the consumption side of the picture, sustainable supply refers to the production side.

See also: sustainable consumption and production (SCP) 

 

 

Land & Soils 

Global land use accounting (GLUA) 

 

 

Global land use accounting is a method to account for the global land use of agricultural land (GLUA) or forestry (GLUF) needed to supply domestic consumption of agricultural or forestry products (respectively). It follows the principles of economy-wide material flow analysis, meaning it is calculated using land equivalents for domestic production plus imports minus exports of all agricultural or forestry goods. Land quantities are expressed in per capita terms to enable a cross-country comparison.

 

 

Land & Soils 

 

Metals

Critical metal 

 

A critical metal is a metal of high economic importance that faces supply risks (i.e. geographical and/or geopolitical constraints) and for which there is no actual or commercially viable substitute. It is a relative concept, and the list of critical metals will vary depending upon the needs of industry, especially those of emerging technologies. 

 

Metals

Materials 

 

Materials are substances or compounds. They are used as inputs to production or manufacturing because of their properties. A material can be defined at different stages of its life cycle: unprocessed (or raw) materials, intermediate materials and finished materials. For example, iron ore is mined and processed into crude iron, which in turn is refined and processed into steel. Each of these can be called materials. Steel is then used as an input in many other industries to make finished products (UNEP 2010b).

 

 

Metals

Metals 

 

Metals are elements (or mixtures of elements) characterized by specific properties, i.e. conductivity of electricity. Major engineering metals include e.g. aluminium, copper, iron, lead, steel and zinc. Precious metals include gold, palladium, platinum, rhodium and silver while specialty metals include antimony, cadmium, chromium, cobalt, magnesium, manganese, mercury, molybdenum, nickel, tin, titanium, and tungsten. Because metals are elements they are not degradable and cannot be depleted in an absolute sense: once in the environment they do not disappear, but some, like heavy metals, may accumulate in soils, sediments, and organisms with impacts on human and ecosystem health.

See also: critical metals 

 

 

Metals

Secondary material 

 

A secondary material has already been used and recycled (= recycled material). It refers to the amount of the outflow which can be recovered to be re-used or refined to re-enter the production stream. One aim of dematerialization is to increase the amount of secondary materials used in production and consumption to create a more circular economy. 

 

 

Metals

Stocks 

 

A stock is the quantity (e.g. mass) of a chosen material that exists within a given system boundary at a specific time. In terms of measurement units, stock is a level variable (i.e. it is measured in kg) as opposed to material flows (which are rate variables).

See also:  anthropogenic stocks, hibernating stocks, in-use stocks, material stocks 

 

 

Metals

 

Water

 

Water efficiency 

 

Water efficiency is described by the ratio of useful water outputs to inputs of a given system or activity. It implies using less water to achieve more goods and services and entails finding ways to maximize the value of water use and allocation decisions within and between uses and sectors (Global Water Partnership 2006).

See also:  efficiency 

 

 

Water 

Water footprint 

 

The water footprint is an indicator mapping the impact of human consumption on global fresh water resources (Hoekstra 2003). The water footprint of an individual, community or business is defined as the total volume of freshwater that is used (directly and indirectly) to produce the goods and services consumed by the individual or community or produced by the business. Water use is measured in water volume consumed (evaporated) and/or polluted per unit of time. 

 

 

Water 

Water harvesting 

 

Rainwater harvesting refers to the collection of rain that otherwise would become run-off. Various sorts of rainwater harvesting techniques exist to provide drinking water, water for livestock or water for irrigating crops or gardens (FAO 2011). 

 

 

Water 

Water productivity 

 

Water productivity measures how a system converts water into goods and services. It refers to the ratio of net benefits derived from e.g. crop, forestry, fishery, livestock and industrial systems to the amount of water used in the production process (product units/m3). Generally, increased productivity of water means increasing the volume of benefit, i.e. output, service or satisfaction from a unit of water used. When water productivity is measured in monetary output instead of physical output, we speak about ‗economic water productivity‘. See also:  productivity 

 

 

Water 

Water recycling

 

Water recycling is the re-use of water from one economic activity for the same or another activity after significant treatment. It requires the treatment and disinfection of municipal wastewater to provide a water supply suitable for non-potable reuse, i.e. for non-drinking purposes such as landscape irrigation, toilet flushing, ornamental fountains, industrial cooling, creating ponds, and dust control at irrigation sites. 

 

 

Water 

 

Terms

 

Abandoned land 

 

Abandoned land is land that was once cultivated, but is no longer used for agriculture. It may comprise degraded land with low productivity or land with high productivity. Set-aside land does not belong to this category.  

See also: degraded land, ‘marginal’ land 

 

 

Land & Soils 

Abiotic resources 

 

Abiotic resources are non-living resources that cannot regenerate by themselves. They include fossil fuels, metals and minerals. Therefore, they are often called non-renewable resources (UNEP 2010b). 

 

 

Env Impacts 

Acidification (soil)

 

Acidification of soils refers to the reduction of soil pH. It can occur naturally and soils have different levels of susceptibility, but it is also exacerbated as a result of continual removal of crops (which remove alkalinity from the soil in order to compensate carbon dioxide assimilation). Farmers control acidification by application of lime or other alkaline minerals.

 

 

Land & Soils