Increasing resource prices and greater price volatility in recent years have highlighted the need for countries and businesses to invest in resource efficiency, to remain competitive and to secure their future prosperity.
According to a new UNEP report released today, imports required to supply Asia and the Pacific with raw materials have more than doubled since 1992, and will continue to dominate world material flows.
Over the last two decades, growth in material use has outpaced GDP growth in the region, leading to an increase in the material intensity three times more than the rest of the world. The report reveals that the consumption of construction materials grew fastest at 176 per cent, followed by metal ores and industrial materials at 130 per cent, fossil fuels at 106 per cent, and biomass at 47 per cent.
As countries deplete their domestic resource bases, the region’s dependence on foreign resources is expected to grow and will inevitably cause vulnerability to fluctuations in international prices.
The consumption of large quantities of these materials has enabled Asia Pacific to rapidly modernize its infrastructures and cities where over 1.6 billion people now live. It has also enabled the region to establish the globally dominant manufacturing capacity.
This has in turn contributed to achieving significant progress in reducing income poverty. However, the accelerated pace of urbanization and industrialization, has brought about increasing pressures on the environment that may impede the region’s future growth.
“Future prosperity in Asia Pacific will depend on investments in its natural capital on which many of the poorest depend on a daily basis and on which the region as a whole depends for its long term growth. It will also depend on decoupling growth from intensive resource use. The current inefficient patterns make the region reliant on large scale imports of fuel and materials, and have led to widespread air and water pollution,” said Kaveh Zahedi, UNEP Regional Director and Representative for Asia and the Pacific.
The report, ‘Keeping Track of Our Changing Environment in Asia and the Pacific’ uses the latest data and statistics to illustrate the major environmental, economic and social changes that have taken place in Asia and the Pacific since 1992, the year that countries around the world put forth their commitment to move towards sustainable development.
It portrays the region’s dramatic development in helping to bring millions out of poverty in the past 20 years. The comprehensive data also uncovers the unfinished social and environmental agendas on which future growth depends. The findings complement previous research work of UNEP that has highlighted the need for a systemic change in natural resources use in Asia and the Pacific.
“Reducing poverty, addressing inequality, halting the fast depletion of the region’s natural capital, promoting green industries and sustainable energy are all components of a resource efficient, inclusive green economy. Progress on any single track will simply not be enough to meet the aspirations of our dynamic region,” Zahedi said.
This report is released days before the first ever UN Environment Assembly taking place 23-27 June 2014 in Nairobi, Kenya. Over 18 Ministers and Vice-Ministers and more than 30 countries from Asia Pacific will attend the historic event. UNEA, with its universal membership, provides the world’s environment ministers, for the first time, with an assembly at which they can define international action on the environment and decide on concrete actions to address key environmental challenges.
The two main themes for the high-level segment of UNEA are the Sustainable Development Goals, including sustainable consumption and production, and the illegal trade in wildlife, issues which are also highlighted in the Keeping Track of Our Changing Environment in Asia and the Pacific report.
For more information on the United Nations Environment Assembly, visit http://www.unep.org/unea/en/
The report, “Keeping Track of Our Changing Environment in Asia Pacific”, can be downloaded at: http://www.unep.org/roap/Portals/96/Keeping-Track-AP.pdf
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