The 27th Meeting of the International Resource Panel (IRP) took place virtually from 31 May to 4 June 2021. The opening remarks were delivered by the head of UNEP’s New York Office, Dr. Ligia Noronha who commended the work of the IRP in setting the agenda globally on natural resource management and promoting the mainstreaming of circularity and resource efficiency. She raised some key questions for the Panel to consider in its new strategic plan:

  • What are the resource implications of ‘building back better' ?  How can the IRP inform sustainable policy choices in sectors that are important for recovery, such as investments in infrastructure, extractives and mining, fishing, buildings and construction?

  • What will net-zero commitments mean for the pace, intensity and impacts of resource extraction and use? What will just transitions mean in this context of accelerated action?

  • What are the available policy options to ensure that access or availability of natural resources does not limit well-being?

Ms. Noronha highlighted that the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) work, under its new medium-term strategy, will particularly benefit from the Panel’s expertise in two areas. First, the IRP will be instrumental in UNEP’s efforts to promote more responsible industry by providing solutions for sustainable value chains in high-impact sectors such as commercial fishing or mining.

Second, the IRP plays a key role in advancing Sustainable Consumption and Production, Circular Economy, and Agenda 2030, particularly by providing insights on the following: How to orient consumption to ‘becoming’ rather than ‘owning’? How to build circularity that is inclusive and that promotes egalitarian and responsible consumption? What are the environmental and trade implications of the localization of global supply chains? What are the health implications of recycled and reused materials?

Ms. Noronha’s remarks were followed by a presentation from Dr. Hans Bruyninckx, Panel member and lead coordinator of the IRP flagship report Global Resource Outlook 2023. Dr. Bruyninckx noted the significant progress made by the former versions of the report in consolidating the IRP as a credible voice on sustainable resource management and in advancing the Panel’s contributions to the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development. Looking ahead, he indicated that GRO 2023 will outline key components of an alternative resource management model, one that proposes transformational and radical (not incremental) change, with options that help policymakers move from theoretic concepts to practical solutions.

Ms. Merlyn Van Voore, Head of the IRP Secretariat concluded the opening session by shedding light on the IRP Strategic Planning for 2022-2025. She noted the IRP has a unique opportunity to increase its impact in 2022-2025. Policy processes such as Stockholm+50, the United Nations Decade of Action for the Sustainable Development Goals, upcoming Climate and Biodiversity COPs, and a Global movement on Sustainable Consumption and Production will all need science-based policy recommendations for sustainable resource management. Many global assessments are scheduled for the next 4 years. These include studies from UNEP, IPBES, IPCC, UNDESA, UNCCD, CBD, among others.​ Through the IRP 2021 Strategic Planning Exercise and the 2022-2025 Work Programme, the IRP will seek to build on existing knowledge and add value, bringing its unique resources perspective.

During the IRP 27th Meeting, participants discussed the work on Resource Implications of Human Mobility and Migration, Enhancement of the IRP Global Material Flow Database, and the terms of reference of the Global Resources Outlook 2023. Four Working Groups provided brief updates on their work, including the Socio-Economic Implications of Enhancing Resource Efficiency and promoting a Circular Economy, Governing Sustainability Transitions in a Resource Dependent World, Defining Sustainable Levels of Resource Use (Science-Based Targets), and scenario Modeling of Integrated Natural Resource Use. As part of the 2021 Strategic Planning Exercise, participants also had a fruitful discussion to co-shape the 2022-2025 Work Programme of the IRP.

Finally, participants welcomed a number of distinguished guest speakers who shared information, insights, and recommendations with the IRP during the Meeting. Ms. Kate Raworth, Co-founder of Doughnut Economics Action Lab, inspired the Panel’s thinking on potential paths to sustainability. Dr. Andrea Hinwood, UNEP Chief Scientist highlighted the value of IRP data and tools in strengthening collaboration with other global environmental assessment bodies. Mr. Abdalah Mokssit, Secretary of the IPCC, provided a video presentation on the future plans of the IPCC and windows for collaboration. Ms. Elisa Tonda, Head of the UNEP Consumption and Production Unit, joined by colleagues from UNEP, UNIDO, and the European Commission (EC), gave an overview on the planning for the Global Alliance on Circular Economy and Resource Efficiency (GACERE).

The virtual meeting, chaired by Panel Co-Chairs Dr. Izabella Teixeira and Dr. Janez Potočnik, as well as IRP Steering Committee Co-Chairs Ms. Astrid Schomaker and Mr. Mark Radka brought together around 85 participants, including Panel members, Steering Committee members from 19 countries and EC, Strategic Partners and six observing countries (Colombia, Israel, Poland, Singapore, Slovenia and the UK).

Participants of the 27th IRP Virtual Meeting