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Contemporary Resource Policy and Decoupling Trends

Contemporary Resource Policy and Decoupling Trends

Lessons Learnt from Integrated Model-Based Assessments

Addressing climate change and natural resource depletion has been key to the international and national sustainability agenda for almost 30 years. Despite existing efforts, global CO2 emissions and raw material use levels continue to grow. This seems to suggest the need for more systemic approaches in environmental policy. The authors, among them Ecologic Institute's Dr. Martin Hirschnitz-Garbers, call upon policy makers to integrate rebound mitigation strategies and move beyond exclusively improving efficiency to tackling structural and behavioural changes. The article is available for download.

Our paper contributes modelling results to assess the potential of efficiency improvements to achieve absolute decoupling of global raw material use and environmental impacts from economic growth. We apply the global, dynamic MRIO model GINFORS to simulate potential effects of raw material efficiency improvements in production against a climate mitigation scenario baseline.

Our simulation experiments indicate that (rather radical) progress in the raw material efficiency of production technologies in concert with extensive climate mitigation efforts could enable an absolute decoupling of resource use and CO2 emissions from GDP growth at a global level and for some countries. The absolute raw material extraction levels achieved, however, still exceed the material use reduction targets suggested by sustainability scientists. Our findings highlight that achieving such targets without addressing rebound effects is implausible.


Meyer, M.; Hirschnitz-Garbers, M.; Distelkamp, M. (2018). Contemporary Resource Policy and Decoupling Trends – Lessons Learnt from Integrated Model-Based Assessments. Sustainability 2018, 10(6), 1858; doi:10.3390/su10061858

Mark Meyer (GWS)
Martin Distelkamp (GWS)
Published In
28 pp.
Project ID
Table of Contents

1. Introduction
1.1. International Environmental Policy—Unified in Lack of Quantified Targets on Raw Material Use
1.2. Past Decoupling Trends on Global and National Levels
1.3. A Need for Going beyond Resource Efficiency Oriented Policies?
2. Materials and Methods
2.1. Research Question and Study Design
2.2. The Global Dynamic MRIO Model GINFORS3
2.2.1. Why Use a Dynamic Macroeconomic Simulation Model?
2.2.2. The GINFORS3 Model
2.3. Scenario Parameterisations
2.3.1. Exogenous Scenario Parameters—Setting Values for Global Population Growth and World Market Prices for Primary Metal Ores by Exchanging Information with a System Dynamic Model
2.3.2. Parameterising a Climate Active Scenario Baseline
2.3.3. Parameterising Resource Efficiency Improvements for Simulation Experiments
3. Results
3.1. Baseline Projection—Potential Impacts of the Climate Active Scenario
3.1.1. Potential Impacts on Global Environmental Indicators and Global GDP
3.1.2. Potential Impacts on Regional Material (RMC per Capita) and CO2 Footprints
3.2. Resource Efficiency Improvements—Potential Impacts of the Simulation Experiments
3.2.1. Potential Impacts on Global Economic and Environmental Indicators
3.2.2. Potential Impacts on Regional and National Material and CO2 Footprints
4. Discussion
4.1. Belief in Progress: Critical Notes on the Prospects for Extensive Autonomous Accelerations in Current Resource Efficiency Trends
4.1.1. It May Be Possible to Achieve Significant Reductions in Global Raw Material Extraction Levels by Improvements in Resource Efficiency
4.1.2. Such Significant Reductions, However, Require Rather Exceptional Accelerations in Global Resource Efficiency Not Witnessed Anywhere in the Past
4.2. Critical Notes on the Orientation and Ambition of Currently Prevailing Environmental Policy Approaches
5. Conclusions

resource policy, material footprint, climate policy, rebound effects, simulation, macro-econometric models, multi-region input-output model, transformation, , policy assessment, environmental systems thinking and modelling