Who we are

The International Resource Panel (IRP) was launched by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in 2007 to build and share the knowledge needed to improve our use of resources worldwide.

The Panel consists of eminent scientists with expertise in resource management issues.  It studies key questions around global resource use and produces assessment reports that distil the latest scientific, technical and socio-economic findings to inform decision-making.

The Panel provides advice and connections between policymakers, industry and the community on ways to improve global and local resource management. The Panel includes scientists and governments from both developed and developing regions, civil society, industrial and international organizations.

Its goal is to steer us away from overconsumption, waste and ecological harm to a more prosperous and sustainable future.

Download the overview brochure: English │ French │ Spanish │ Chinese

Our mission

With a forecast human population of 9.2 billion by 2050 accompanied by continuing world economic growth, the International Resource Panel has the urgent task of helping to transform how we use, and re-use, resources.

The IRP’s work proves that it is possible to move to a new paradigm of resource use that is socially equitable, economically efficient, and environmentally healthy.

The Panel’s specific mission is to:

  • provide independent, coherent and authoritative scientific assessments of policy relevance on the sustainable use of natural resources and, in particular, their environmental impacts over the full life cycle; and

  • contribute to a better understanding of how to decouple economic growth from environmental degradation.

Structure

The International Resource Panel has more than 35 expert members drawn from a wide range of academic institutions and scientific disciplines, supported by a small Secretariat hosted by UNEP. It is co-chaired by Janez Potočnik, former European Commissioner for the Environment, and Izabella Teixeira, former Environment Minister of Brazil. 

Its Steering Committee has 27 governments, the European Commission, and UNEP. The Steering Committee is co-chaired by Astrid Schomaker, Director for Global Sustainable Development in the European Commission's Directorate General for Environment, and Mark Radka, Deputy Director of UNEP's Economy Division.

The Panel also has a number of strategic partners.

Learn more

Principles

The Panel upholds the following principles:

  • Objectivity – critical, unbiased reviews of the best available science.

  • Integrity– Panel members uphold the integrity of the scientific process and identify any conflicts of interest.

  • Independence – Panel members yield to no political pressure and carry out independent and impartial scientific assessments.

  • Balance – the Panel includes a diversity of expertise, gender and cultural background.

  • Scientific Rigour – the Panel uses only robust, credible data and methodologies, and the best available science and technology.

  • Systemic and Holistic – the Panel addresses complex interactive risks.

  • Inclusive – the Panel is sensitive to prevailing global views on resource management and environmental sustainability.

The IRP reports are founded on three qualities:

  • Relevance: the Panel responds in a timely way to demands for scientific information and policy options to manage resources sustainably and avoid scarcities. Its work covers the entire process of assessment from identifying critical resource issues to analyzing and articulating their status, drivers and effective responses, and communicating them to the right audiences.

  • Credibility: the Panel bases its assessments and advice on the latest and most reliable peer-reviewed science available internationally, from trusted institutions.

  • Legitimacy: the Panel’s advice takes into account issues of perceived fairness, balance, transparency, political acceptability, accessibility and trust.

 

 

What we do

IRP investigates the world’s most critical resource issues with a view to developing practical solutions for government policymakers, industry and society. Reports can be accessed here

In all its work, the Panel seeks positive solutions to the growing problems posed by resource depletion and misuse by identifying:

In an era of runaway resource consumption, the Panel also studies the wider, multi-dimensional aspects of resource issues, such as:

  • Bio-physical impacts of resource use.

  • The distributional and social justice dimension.

  • Economic efficiency.

  • Institutional feasibility.

  • Behavioural or cultural issues, including in the changes needed.

  • Successful and ineffective ways to manage change in different societies.

IRP and the SDGs

In the context of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), natural resource use connects essential material needs for food, water, energy and shelter (represented by SDGs 2, 6, 7, 9 and 11) and natural and social capital (represented by SDGs 13, 14, 15, and 17) that underpin all life and earth system functions.

Therefore, as recognized by the Sustainable Development Goals 8.4, 12.1 and 12.2, decoupling resource use from well-being and adverse social and environmental impacts is the key to achieving sustainable development. 

Figure below shows the relationship between the IRP scientific assessment and the SDGs.

IRP和SDG

 

Global Material Flows Database

The IRP provides a comprehensive understanding of linkages between the world economy, population and material use spanning four decades based on the authoritative Global Material Flows Database of global materials extraction and materials trade. The data set presents direct and consumption-based material flow indicators for seven world regions and for more than 185 countries, covering total usage, per capita use, and material use per US dollar. It also provides details for different groups of materials.

It provides support for policymakers, businesses, academics, civil society, and other stakeholders to make science-based decisions. It

It provides official data source for measuring global progress on SDG targets 8.4 and 12.2. It is also used for the development of IRP scientific assessments, including the flagship report "Global Resource Outlook", and feed into the "Sustainable Consumption and Production Hotspot Analysis Tool".

Access here the Global Material Flows Database.

 

Other key materials

Revolving around its scientific studies, the IRP developed a diverse package of materials to support the effective dissemination of its key messages.

 

The 2018-2021 Work Programme

Global Resource Use

The IRP provides insight into status and trends of natural resource use globally, across regions and across sectors. Through scenario modelling, it identifies the most promising policy options and outlines different pathways for countries as well as interlinkages and co-benefits between different policy areas.  

Related reports:

 

Resource Efficiency and Climate Change

The IRP provides insight on the two-way interaction between climate change action and sustainable resource management.

More specifically, the Panel's work under this thematic area aims to:

  • Assess the role of specific resource efficiency and circular economy policies in the achievement of the goals set in the Paris agreement.

  • Provide knowledge to understand resource requirements for mitigation and adaptation to climate change and their environmental impacts.

  • To assess impacts of climate change on resource availability, including availability-accessibility of critical (rare) metals for low-carbon technologies and linked mining operations, impacts on terrestrial and marine resources.

  • To provide policy options and strategies to promote low-carbon and resource-efficient societies.

Upon the launch of pertinent reports, IRP has been approached by a number of climate-change stakeholders to provide inputs to the links between resource efficiency and climate action, including the European Commission and United Nations Development Programme, among others.

Related reports:

 

Sustainable Cities

The Panel's work on Cities is designed to help urban communities achieve decoupling at individual city level. It provides decision makers with scientific information on the intersection between urbanization trends and global material flows and identifies opportunities for sustainability-oriented innovations at the city-level, where an estimated 75% of the world’s natural resources are consumed. 

Related reports:

 

Minerals and Metals

The IRP research into global metal flows area explores the potential for reuse and recycling of metals and the establishment of renewable material cycles by providing an authoritative scientific assessment of the global stocks and flows of metals. 

Related reports:

 

Food, Land, and Biodiversity

The Panel's work on food examines the impact of global food systems on natural resource use and the environment, identifying opportunities to improve resource efficiency, achieve a transition towards more sustainable food systems, and enhance worldwide food security. 



Its work on land aims at improving the sustainable management of land and soil resources including land potential, land productivity, soil resilience, and land restoration. Its assessments examine the impacts of development trends due to population growth, urbanization, and changes in diets and consumption behavior, on the dynamics of global land use. It includes assessing the consequences for biodiversity, the supply of food, fibers and fuel, and the implications for the health of nature and human society.



Finally, IRP Global Resources Outlook 2019 founds that the extraction and processing of natural resources contributes to around 90% of global biodiversity loss, the IRP Co-Chairs therefore issue an opinion piece in 2021 with an aim to help strengthen global biodiversity governance through the natural resource management approach.

Related reports:

 

 

Strategies and approaches

The Panel uses constructive and robust approaches, concepts and tools to make scientific assessments  of value to policy makers, businesses, and the general public.

The work of the Panel entails assessment of state-of-the-art science, as well as new syntheses and interpretations. All IRP reports are peer reviewed

The Panel’s research process is shown below:

国际资源专家组

The Panel’s choice of issues for research covers many different resources and especially the way these interact with the economy and society. Its research entry points include:

  • Resources (water, land, materials, energy, etc.) and the nexus of resource impacts

  • Environmental impacts at global, regional and local levels. Systems (eg. cities, trade, food chain, etc.) and correlations between production and consumption

  • Policy impacts (e.g. poverty, equity, access, employment, fiscal, prices, etc.)

The Panel focuses in particular on those resources with the highest environmental impacts and greatest potential for improvement.

In selecting its topics, the Panel considers the following criteria:  

  • Magnitude and range of challenge, solution and impact (global, continental, economy- and ecosystem-wide)

  • Urgency of issues and timeliness of scientific knowledge

  • Policy relevance, feasibility, specificity, conditions for implementation

  • Scientific significance

  • Data availability, knowledge gaps and needs

  • Human impact: social dimensions including poverty, health, jobs, intra and inter generation equity, safety net

  • Limits and trade-offs between different options and impacts; prevention and mitigation of unintended consequences

  • Gaps in the scientific assessment landscape and where IRP can add value.

The Panel emphasises:

  • systems thinking and a life-cycle perspective, that takes account of drivers, pressures, states, impacts and potential responses;

  • policy relevance rather than policy prescription.

It also develops new tools for applications such as:

  • exploring alternative resource futures and the complexity of emerging resource issues,

  • evaluating the risks of burden shift associated with economic globalization and rebound effects,

  • calculating the hidden costs of a bio-based economy,

  • assessing the impact of green technologies on already scarce materials,

  • identifying ‘lock-in implications’ of short-term gain that prevents long term benefit.

 

IRP study development process

During preparation of assessments, the Steering Committee and the Panel members ensure multiple points of view are considered. The Secretariat supports the process through coordination of meetings and input, and by providing guidance to members on the application of corresponding policies and procedures as well as administrative and substantive support when required.

This procedure ensures that the final document responds to the specific needs of policymakers, identifies and prioritizes risks and opportunities, and estimates levels of certainty.

 

Synergy with other panels

The International Resource Panel works closely with other scientific panels and sources such as:

  • the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

  • UNEP’s Global Environmental Outlook

  • the World Energy Assessment

  • the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment

  • the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development

  • the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity

  • the Global Energy Assessment

The work of the IRP is cited in these global reports as well as in UNEP reports such as the Green Economy (GE) Report, the Global Environment Outlook-5, and the draft 10 Year Framework Programme of Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP).

 

Impact and uptake

IRP reports are designed to inform and influence the views, performance and decisions of those who can act on the use of natural resources and their environmental effects.

Through the IRP’s body of work, sustainable resource management became a more visible and urgent policy priority within a number of critical resource managers (including non-traditional IRP audiences like the G20, the G7, business and climate change stakeholders).

Read the long list of the Panel's impact here and short list below.

 

Policy plans (2020)

  • European Green Deal

    Institution: European Commission

    Date: January 2020

    IRP contribution: within the European Green Deal (Europe’s framework of action on sustainable development), references to the IRP's "Global Resource Outlook 2019" were included in the main document and related official communication from the European Commission. The European Commission describes the  European Green Deal as "[…] a new growth strategy that aims to transform the EU into a fair and prosperous society, with a modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy where there are no net emissions of greenhouse gases in 2050 and where economic growth is decoupled from resource use". Resource efficiency is flagged multiple times throughout the document.

 

Global reports (2020)

  • Human Development Report 2020

    Institution: United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

    Date: December 2020 

    IRP contribution: UNEP and the IRP provided inputs for the development of UNDP’s flagship report which focuses on meeting people’s aspirations in balance with the planet. It also assesses the pathways for sustainable human development, upgrading both its conceptual and analytical frameworks, including the Human Development Index (HDI), by bringing in the environmental dimension more explicitly. IRP Co-Chairs, a number of Panel members, and Head of the Secretariat participated and co-organized some sessions of the consultative symposium during the Human Development Report 2020 preparation process.

  • Roadmaps for Buildings and Construction 2020-2050

    Institutions: Global Alliance for Buildings, Construction (GlobalABC) & International Energy Agency (IEA)

    Date: July 2020

    IRP contribution: the Global and Regional Roadmaps for Buildings and Construction in Africa, Asia and Latin America help set targets and pathways to achieve zero-emission from the built environment along the full life cycle. The Roadmaps include references to and recommendations from the IRP's "Resource Efficiency and Climate Change" report and "The Weight of Cities" report.

 

  • Recover Better: Economic and Social Challenges and Opportunities

    Institution: UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA)

    Date: 22 July 2020

    IRP contribution: the report includes one full chapter of Co-Chair Izabella Teixeira and the Panel's messages on the key role decoupling plays in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and the recovery from COVID-19, authored by Co-Chair Izabella Teixeira, Victor Valido and Yi-Ann Chen of the IRP Secretariat.

 



 

  • The Use of Natural Resources in the Economy: A Global Manual on Economy-Wide Material Flow Accounting

    Institution: UN Committee of Experts on Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA)

    Date: August 2020

    IRP contribution: the report was presented jointly by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the IRP, the United Nations Statistic Division, and the European Commission at the Fifteenth Meeting of the UN Committee of Experts on Environmental-Economic Accounting. Panel member Heinz Schandl is one of the lead authors.

 

Regional & national reports (2020)

  • G20 Report on Actions against Marine Plastic Litter : Second Information Sharing based on the G20 Implementation Framework

    Institution: Group of Twenty (G20) 

    Date: November 2020

    IRP contribution: This report seeks to promote policies and measures with regards to reducing marine plastic litter among G20 members and non-G20 members, incorporating IRP’s assessments and approaches to address the issue. The report was prepared by the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, with the support of the Ministry of the Environment, Japan, and the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) as a follow-up of the G20 Implementation Framework for Actions on Marine Plastic Litter.

  • Insights from Global Environmental Assessments-Lessons for the Netherlands

    Institution: PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency

    Date: 14 September 2020

    IRP contribution: this study synthesizes findings of five recent assessments in the fields of climate, land-use, biodiversity loss, and resource use, from which, lessons are drawn for Dutch sustainability transitions. IRP's "Global Resources Outlook 2019" report is one of the five key assessments to inform the Netherlands' policy making surrounding sustainable resource use.

  • Monitoring International Resource Policy

    Institution: Umwelt Bundesamt (German Environment Agency)

    Date: March 2020

    IRP contribution: the study was designed to survey, monitor, and analyze international policy developments in the sustainable management of natural resources. It highlights that international, European, and national discussions have increasingly placed importance on the sustainable use of natural resources, and shaped the environmental policy debate through resource efficiency, with reference to the IRP and its "Global Resources Outlook" report.

  • Biodiversity Footprint of Companies

    Institution : France Stratégie

    Date: January 2020

    IRP contribution: France Strategy is an autonomous institution placed under the Prime Minister, contributing to public action through its analysis and proposals on social, economic, and environmental issues. Its report references the IRP think piece "Land Restoration for Achieving the SDGs" and calls for companies to take biodiversity into account in their business models and product lifecycles. 

 

Private sector strategies & guidelines (2020)

  • CEO Guide to the Circular Bioeconomy

    Institutions: World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) & Boston Consulting Group (BCG)

    Date: February 2020

    IRP contribution: this publication calls for a shift towards a sustainable, low-carbon, and circular bio-economy, highlighting findings from the IRP "Global Resource Outlook 2019" report.

 

Policy plans (2019)

  • Zero Waste Masterplan Singapore

    Institutions: Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, Government of Singapore & National Environment Agency Singapore

    Date: September 2019

    IRP contribution: Singapore's inaugural Zero Waste Masterplan maps out Singapore's key strategies for transition to a sustainable, resource-efficient and climate-resilient nation. IRP's "Assessing Global Resource Use" report was referenced.

  • National Resource Efficiency Policy 2019 (Draft)

    Institution: Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India

    Date: July 2019

    IRP contribution: the National Resource Efficiency Policy aims to establish a facilitative and regulatory environment to mainstream resource efficiency across all sectors in India. The IRP "Resource Efficiency" report was used as a reference point in the draft policy plan.

  • French Strategy for Energy and Climate-Multi Annual Energy Plan

    Institution: Ministère de la Transition Ecologique et Solidaire (Ministry for the Ecological Transition)

    Date: 01 April 2019

    IRP contribution: this strategy is part of the French Multi-Annual Energy Plan (MAEP), which sets the priorities for government action regarding energy policy for Metropolitan France in the next decade, shared in two 5-year periods (2019-2023; 2024-2028). The Panel's scenarios developed to capture the link between climate change and resources were referenced.

  • UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-4) Resolutions and Declarations

    Institution: UN Environment Assembly (UNEA)

    Date: 11 to 15 March 2019

    IRP contribution: IRP messages on resource efficiency were promoted by the UN Deputy Secretary General, the president of Kenya and other high-level stakeholders at the fourth session of the UNEA. In the session, more than 10 events and interventions were linked to the IRP flagship report "Global Resources Outlook 2019". Among the 24 UNEA Resolutions/Declarations resulting from the session, four mentioned the IRP and its work, and required further input from the IRP.

 

Reports (2019)

  • Emissions Gap Report 2019

    Institution: United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

    Date: December 2019

    IRP Contribution: Chapter 7 of this UNEP flagship report was written by IRP member Edgar Hertwich based on the IRP report "Resource Efficiency and Climate Change". The Emissions Gap Report provides the latest data on the status and trends of global greenhouse gas emissions. It also compares where greenhouse gas emissions are headed, against where they should be to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. The 2019 Report highlights IRP's call for efficient use of materials with detailed modeling results and policy recommendations.

  • Climate Action Pathways 2020

    Institution: United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

    Date: November 2019

    IRP contribution: the Climate Action Pathways documents are prepared by the coalitions and initiatives of the Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action and the High-Level Champions Team. The documents outline the sectoral visions for a 1.5-degree climate-resilient world by 2050 and set out actions needed to achieve that future. The thematic area of Human Settlement includes findings from the IRP's "The Weight of Cities" report.

 

Others (2019)

  • Joint Ministerial Statement of the Green Group at the Climate Change Conference (COP25)

    Institution: Green Group (Slovenia, Iceland, Costa Rica, Singapore, Cabo Verde, and the United Arab Emirates)

    Date: 2-13 December 2019

    IRP contribution: the Green Group was established to promote green policies and awareness on environmental issues in the international sphere. Its joint Ministerial Statement at COP25 highlighted that Members of the Green Group value the Panel's work and its emphasis on the need for immediate action to ensure long-term patterns of sustainable consumption and production. 

  • E-learning Course on Resource Efficiency

    Institution: UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia (ESCAP)

    Date: July 2019

    IRP contribution: ESCAP and the IRP had jointly developed an e-learning course on Resource Efficiency that provides policy-makers and sustainable development practitioners information on the key concepts of Resource Efficiency, the ways to measure it, the important role it plays in the context of sustainable development, as well as policy pathways for promoting Resource Efficiency, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region. The e-learning course was launched in July 2019 and is available on the ESCAP SDG Help Desk platform.

  • Sustainable Consumption and Production Hotspots Analysis Tool (SCP-HAT)

    Institutions: UNEP & One Planet Network

    Date: 11 March 2019

    IRP contribution: this tool was developed as a joint initiative between UNEP’s Life Cycle Initiative, One Planet Network and IRP. The online application builds on IRP Global Material Flow Database to analyze the environmental and socio-economic performance of 171 countries over the past 25 years to provide scientific evidence of areas where improvement can be made along the supply chain of the goods and services.