International Panel for Sustainable Resource Management meets in Helsinki
Kinahmi open-pit mine in Nilsiä
Photo: Tapio Heikkilä
The eighth official meeting of the International Panel for Sustainable Resource Management, part of the UN environmental programme UNEP, will be held in Helsinki from 29 May to 1 June. Among other issues, the meeting will focus on the material flows of the global metal industry and the availability of minerals, as well as the sufficiency of natural resources and the environmental impact of their utilisation.
From all corners of the globe, a host of leading experts on natural resources will attend. Among them will be professors Ernst von Weizsäcker (Germany) and Thomas E. Graedel (USA), both of whom have received several awards for their work in the field. At the meeting, the current status of the Panel’s workgroup projects will be evaluated and workshops on various research subjects will be established.
Sufficiency of natural resources and environmental impact of their utilisation
Founded in November 2007, the International Panel for Sustainable Resource Management is a research group under the auspices of the UN environmental programme. Its tasks include the compilation and analysis of available research on the sustainable utilisation of natural resources, and on ways of generating economic growth without further increasing the use of such resources.
"So far, the International Panel for Sustainable Resource Management has concentrated on minimising the environmental impact of natural resource utilisation. Focal points have been the impact of biofuel and metal material flows, as well as the availability of fresh water. Future subjects of evaluation include the environmental risks of land usage and the material flows of cities", says Finnish Panel member Lea Kauppi, Executive Director of the Finnish Environment Institute.
Material flows of the metal industries and availability of minerals
The most pressing issues discussed in Helsinki will include managing the utilisation of mineral resources, and controlling the environmental impact of material flows within the global metal industry. In addition, growing worldwide demand for metals, the impact of metal production and the issue of recycling options in relation to the outlook for economic growth will be considered.
"If the per capita metal consumption of the global population corresponded to that of industrialised countries, the world would require three to nine times the metal resources currently available", states the report of the Panel’s metal workgroup, published just prior to the Helsinki conference.
In Finland, the electronics industry is particularly affected by international metal and mineral issues and the availability of rare earth metals. The Finnish mining industry is currently enjoying a period of strong growth. Several new mines are planned for the production of basic metals.
"We are approaching the situation of which environmental experts have long been warning us: easily accessible sources of raw materials will soon be depleted. During the 2000s, raw material prices declined, but have recently begun to rise again due to the rapid growth of the Chinese and Indian economies. Expensive oil has simultaneously raised food prices. The poorest countries already face a difficult situation. Energy and material efficiency must be improved considerably to ensure sufficient natural resources in the fight against poverty. Consumption cannot continue at its present level", comments Environment Counsellor Antero Honkasalo of the Ministry of the Environment, who is a member of the Panel’s steering group.
Independent experts support decision-making
The International Panel for Sustainable Resource Management is an independent expert and evaluation organisation pondering the sustainable utilisation, environmental impact and overall life cycle of natural resources. Finland has actively supported the work of the Panel from the outset. The Helsinki conference is being staged by the Ministry of the Environment and the Finnish Environment Institute, in cooperation with the United Nations Environment Programme UNEP.
Executive Director Lea Kauppi, Finnish Environment Institute SYKE tel. +358 (0)40 748 1668
Environment Counsellor Antero Honkasalo, Ministry of the Environment, tel. +358 (0)50 525 0892
UNEP press release on metal recycling
UNEP press release on decoupling natural resource use and environmental impacts from economic growth
Thomas E. Graedel's presentation on metal recycling
Presentation on decoupling natural resource use and environmental impacts from economic growth