Resource use and resource productivity in Asia: Trends over the past 25 years

Giljum, S., Dittrich, M., Bringezu, S., Polzin, C., Lutter S. (2010)

This working paper provides the first comparative and quantitative assessment of material consumption and resource productivity in Asia between 1985 and 2005. 19 Asian countries were selected for the analysis, together representing more than 90% of GDP in Asia. The study is based on the methodological framework of material flow accounting and analysis (MFA), as established by the OECD and EUROSTAT. The study shows that Asia is not only the growth centre of the world economy in terms of monetary production and consumption, it is also the world region with the highest growth rates in material and energy consumption. By as much as a factor of 4O, vast inequalities in per capita consumption exist between the various countries within Asia. Looking at developments over time, we find that overall resource productivity has not significantly improved in Asia over the past 25 years. However, it is again impossible to generalise as there are large differences in resource productivity across Asia. Japan, for example, was almost 20 times more resource efficient in the year 2005 than the country with the lowest resource efficiency, Indonesia. We also show that material consumption and energy-related CO2 emissions are strongly correlated, despite very different levels of GDP per capita. We conclude that Asian countries need to alter current development trends and help avoid a situation of severe global resource scarcities and (potentially armed) conflicts about access to limited natural resources. Increasing resource productivity, erasing poverty in the developing countries and reducing resource use in the high consuming countries are key priorities in a joint Asian policy agenda towards “Green Industries”.

The results of our analysis are published in SERI working paper No. 11.

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