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.



Trade flows by type of resource and their environmental impacts

Availability of resources is at the very interface of society-nature interaction and societies have a long history of converting natural terrestrial systems into increasingly human-dominated ones (Boserup, 1993), thus maximizing the output useful for sustaining human life. Biomass materials are considered to be the renewable resources that comprise all raw materials of plant origin extracted from nature as well as hunted animals. This includes agricultural products, harvest by-products (e.g. straw), grassland harvests, biomass grazed by livestock, timber and hunted (wild) animals. Plant-based biomass makes up most of the socio-economic uses of biomass, hence extraction is closely linked with harvest land.


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