This year, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) published the tenth edition of its Emissions Gap Report, which revealed that the world must immediately begin delivering deeper and faster greenhouse gas emission cuts to keep global temperature rise to 1.5°C. To achieve this goal, we will need to use the full range of emission reduction options, including the implementation of material efficiency strategies.
The International Resource Panel (IRP) has been providing insights into how humanity can better manage its resources since 2007. Its research shows that natural resource extraction and processing account for more than 90 per cent of global biodiversity loss and water stress and approximately half of global greenhouse gas emissions. This new IRP report, Resource Efficiency and Climate Change: Material Efficiency Strategies for a Low-Carbon Future, commissioned by the Group of 7, points to exciting new opportunities to reduce these impacts through material efficiencies in homes and cars.
Climate mitigation efforts have traditionally focused on enhancing energy efficiency and accelerating the transition to renewables. While this is still key, this report shows that material efficiency can also deliver big gains. According to IRP modelling, emissions from the material cycle of residential buildings in the G7 and China could be reduced by at least 80 per cent in 2050 through a series of material efficiency strategies. A more intensive use of homes, design with less materials, and improved recycling of construction materials are among the most promising strategies.