After decades that were mainly characterised from an environmental perspective by energy, pollution and climate discussions, the issue of resources, such as primary and secondary material resources, land occupation, water usage, etc., is back on the agenda of politicians, economists and societal leaders.
In particular, the rapidly growing demand for energy and material resources by the recent economic powers, China, India and Brazil, has led to rising resource prices; this puts resource-intensive economies under strong economic pressure and has also demonstrated shortages of various commodities in the markets.
In an unprecedented clarity and speed - triggered by the mechanisms of a globalised and ever-growing global economy - the need for action became fundamental. Issues such as long-term secured access to resources are central points of many national policies, since a notable security dimension is often also applicable. So it is not surprising that among others the European Commission as well as individual EU Member States and the United States have formulated resource strategies.
An International Resource Panel (IRP) under the leadership of the United Nations (UNEP Environment Programme) has been established against the backdrop of a growing world population with increasing resource demands, for example through changing lifestyles. This is in line with the sustainable development principles of equal access to natural resources and their equal global distribution that was accepted by the UN conference in 2007. The IRP shall be responsible for seeking an independent, coherent and authoritative scientific assessment of the sustainable use of natural resources and their environmental impact throughout their entire life cycle, without having a sectoral focus.
The “Responsible use of resources” profile strives to contribute to this discussion and potential strategies on how to use resources more responsibly, as well as to add value through a multitude of interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary activities with a strong focus on research and education.