International Trade in Resources

A Biophysical Assessment

image of International Trade in Resources

Tasked with building and sharing knowledge on how to improve management of the world’s resources, UNEP’s International Resource Panel (IRP) turns its attention to the world trading system and its implications for global resource efficiency. In this report entitled “International Trade in Resources: A biophysical assessment”, the IRP examines how efficient the current system of world trade is in distributing resources from the geographical locations of supply to the locations of demand. By examining trade from a biophysical (versus an economic) viewpoint, the authors of the report seek to assess whether or not trade allows commodities to be obtained from countries where their production requires fewer resources and generates a smaller amount of wastes and emissions.




International trade has long been recognized as an important enabler of economic growth and prosperity, permitting countries to meet rising demand for resources that are not available or affordable domestically. Benefits such as increased production, cost efficiency, competition and choice are evident, but their environmental impacts are more ambiguous. A better understanding of the complex interactions involved is needed to shape policy that can maximize synergies and minimize trade-offs, particularly given the recent surge in trade flows


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