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The true raw material footprint of nations
Date:9/2/2013

resources (41% or 29 billion tons) were used just to enable the processing and export of these materials.

The researchers say that because these resources never leave their country of origin, they are not adequately captured by current reporting methods. They have used a new indicator they call the "material footprint" to more accurately account for these 'lost' resources and have developed tools that could assist policy-makers in future.

Economy-wide accounting metrics (such as Domestic Material Consumption or DMC) currently used by certain governments and intergovernmental organisations, including the OECD, the European Union and the UN Environment Programme, only account for the volume of raw materials extracted and used domestically, and the volume physically traded.

These indicators suggest resource-use in wealthy nations has increased at a slower rate than economic growth something known as relative decoupling and that other countries have actually seen their consumption decrease over the last 20 years something known as absolute decoupling. (See figures).

Decoupling of raw material usage from economic growth is considered one of the major goals en route to achieving sustainable development and a low-carbon economy.

But the study authors say when their "material footprint" indicators are factored in these achievements in decoupling are smaller than reported and often non-existent.

The study relates to the following resources: metal ores, biomass, fossil fuels and construction minerals.

Selected country findings:

  • In 2008 China had by far the largest material footprint (MF) in absolute values (16.3 billion tons), twice as large as that of the US and four times that of Japan and India. Sixty per cent of China's MF consists of construction minerals, reflecting its rapid industrialisation and urbanisation over the last 20 years.

  • Australia had the highest material
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Contact: Tommy Wiedmann
t.wiedmann@unsw.edu.au
61-466-012-214
University of New South Wales
Source:Eurekalert

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