International trade is indispensable for countries to meet demand for resources not available, accessible or affordable domestically. This report looks at implications of rapidly rising trade flows for global resource and environmental efficiency.

    Did you know?

    The value of international trade increased six times, and its volume doubled, between 1980 and 2010.

    Of the resources extracted and used worldwide, some 15% are being traded.

    The number of net exporters is decreasing, highlighting a growing vulnerability of the global trading system, as it comes to rely on ever fewer resource producers.

    The report

      In the past few decades global efforts have been channelled to enforce sustainable management strategies for natural resources, increase resource and environmental efficiency and thus, overall human well-being. This report from the International Resource Panel analyses the role of international trade in increasing resource efficiency, reducing environmental impact and promoting equitable and inclusive growth. Through a comprehensive review of updated data and existing literature, the assessment examines the rapid growth and pattern changes of resource trade and the upstream resource requirements of traded commodities including materials, land, energy and water. The report seeks to shed light on:

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      the dramatic rise in international trade in recent decades, with over a six-fold increase in value and more than doubling of its volume between 1980 and 2010;

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      the indirect resources associated with trade, i.e. resources used in the production process but not physically included in the traded goods;

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      the increasing dependency on world markets to supply the demand for resources, across all material categories with fossil fuels and metals accounting for the highest share;

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      the changes that patterns of trade dependence has experienced with high-income countries remaining main recipients of resources via trade and emerging economies, such as China, becoming major importers; and

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      the rapid increase in upstream requirements of traded commodities -in terms of materials, water, land and energy - the estimates of which range widely from 40-400 per cent of traded materials.

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