UNEP IRP Reports

UNEP International Resource Panel Assessment Areas & Reports

IRP investigates the world’s most critical resource issues with a view to developing practical solutions for government policymakers, industry and society. The IRP’s scientific assessments cover the following areas: Decoupling, Cities, Environmental Impacts, Water, Metals, Land and Soils, Food, REDD+ and Trade.  Bibliographic information for the area reports is listed below.

  • Ekins, P., N. Hughes, et al. 2016. Resource Efficiency: Potential and Economic Implications. Nairobi, Kenya: UNEP, International Resource Panel. 

    The findings of the report point out the importance of joining forces for acting now as well as the huge potential that resource efficiency can have, if it is implemented carefully and supported across different sectors and at multiple levels.  The report shows how resource efficiency can lead to higher economic growth and employment, if supported by well-designed policies.

  • Hertwich, E. G., J. Aloisi de Larderel, A. Arvesen, P. Bayer, J. Bergesen, E. Bouman, T. Gibon, G. Heath, C. Peña,  P. Purohit, A. Ramirez, and S. Suh. 2016. Green Energy Choices: The benefits, risks and trade-offs of low-carbon technologies for electricity production. Nairobi, Kenya: UNEP, International Resource Panel.

    Rising energy demand and efforts to combat climate change require a significant increase in low-carbon electricity generation. Yet, concern has been raised that rapid investment in some novel technologies could cause a new set of environmental problems.  This report aims to support policy-makers in making informed decision about energy technologies, infrastructures and optimal mix.

  • Urama, K. C., .P. Koefoed Bjørnsen, N. Riegels, K. Vairavamoorthy, J. Herrick, L. Kauppi, J. A. McNeely, J. McGlade, E. Eboh, M. Smith, E. Acheampong, W. Pengue, A. Siriban-Manalag, and M. Swilling. 2016. Options for decoupling economic growth from water use and water pollution. Nairobi, Kenya: UNEP, International Resource Panel.

    The report provides an independent assessment of technological and policy-relevant tools and approaches that can be used to achieve the decoupling of water resources from economic development while considering environmental and welfare impacts over the full life cycle.

  • Westhoek,H., J. Ingram, S. Van Berkum, L. Özay and M. Hajer. 2016. Food Systems and Natural Resources. Nairobi, Kenya: UNEP, International Resource Panel.

    The report looks at food as a crucial connection point (a ’node’) where various societal issues coincide, such as human dependence on natural resources, the environment, health and wellbeing.  The report looks at all the resources needed for the primary production of food, as well as for other food system activities (e.g. processing, distribution) considering not only the set of activities, but also the range of actor engaged in them and the outcomes in terms of food security, livelihoods and human health.

  • Fischer-Kowalski, M., M. Dittrich, and N. Eisenmenger, P. Ekins, J. Fulton, T. Kastner, K. Hosking, H. Schandl, J. West, and T. O. Wiedmann. 2015. International Trade in Resources: A Biophysical Assessment. Nairobi, Kenya: UNEP, International Resource Panel

    The study highlights the heightened vulnerability of the global trading system, as its balance relies on ever fewer resource producers.  This report contributes to the discussions on resource use and resource efficiency and presents an authoritative, policy-relevant assessment that sheds light on the implications of global trade for environmental sustainability and resource scarcity.

  • Besseau, P., J. Feehan, P. Gutman, V. Kapos, R. Prabhuy,  V. Kapos, U. Narloch, C. Watson, and G. Wong. 2014. Building Natural Capital: How REDD+ can Support a Green Economy. Nairobi, Kenya: UNEP, International Resource Panel.

    This report describes the many benefits of forests and other ecosystems as a way of demonstrating that forests have multiple values beyond carbon sequestration and indeed are a foundation for sustainable societies.

  • Bringezu, S., H. Schütz, W. Pengue, M. O’Brien, F. Garcia, R. Sims, R. Howarth, L. Kauppi, M. Swilling and J. Herrick. 2014. Assessing Global Land Use: Balancing, Consumption with Sustainable Supply. Nairobi, Kenya: UNEP, International Resource Panel.

    This report provides a comprehensive global assessment of increased pressures on natural resources from food, fuels and fiber, identifying the main drivers and providing innovative practical options to mitigate their impacts.

  • von Weizsäcker, E. U., J. de Larderel, K. Hargroves, C. Hudson, M. Smith, and M. Rodrigues. 2014. Decoupling 2: Technologies, opportunities and policy options. Nairobi, Kenya: UNEP, International Resource Panel.

    This report explores technological possibilities and opportunities for both developing and developed countries to accelerate decoupling and reap the environmental and economic benefits of increased resource productivity. It also examines several policy options that have proved to be successful in helping different countries to improve resource productivity in various sectors of their economy, avoiding negative impacts on the environment.

  • Reuter, M. A., C. Hudson, A. van Schaik, K. Heiskanen, C. Meskers, and C. Hagelüken. 2013. Metal Recycling: Opportunities, Limits, Infrastructure. Nairobi, Kenya: UNEP, International Resource Panel.

    This report provides unrivalled science to inform policy makers about how the recycling of metals can be optimized on an economic and technological basis along product life cycles in the move towards sustainable metals management. 

  • Swilling, M., B. Robinson, S. Marvin, and M. Hodson. 2013. City-Level Decoupling: Urban resource flows and the governance of infrastructure transitions. Nairobi, Kenya: UNEP, International Resource Panel.

    This report examines sustainability within cities by addressing the key role of infrastructure in directing material flows and therefore resource use, productivity and efficiency in an urban context.

  • van der Voet, E., R. Salminen, M. Eckelman, G. Mudd, T. Norgate, and R. Hischier. 2013. Environmental Risks and Challenges of Anthropogenic Metals Flows and Cycles. Nairobi, Kenya: UNEP, International Resource Panel.

    This report gives a clear picture of the potential environmental impacts of metals at different stages of the life-cycle while linking with other areas of resource use such as water, food production and energy.

  • McGlade, J., B. Werner, M. Young, M. Matlock, D. Jefferies, G. Sonnemann, M. Aldaya, S. Pfister, M. Berger, C. Farell, K. Hyde, M. Wackernagel, A. Hoekstra, R. Mathews, J. Liu, E. Ercin, J. L. Weber, A. Alfieri, R. Martinez-Lagunes, B. Edens, P. Schulte, S. von Wirén-Lehr, and D. Gee. 2012. Measuring water use in a green economy.  Nairboi, Kenya: UNEP, International Resource Panel.

    The second in a series of reports on sustainable water management, this report aims to provide a more detailed account of how a decoupling policy can be measured, and to introduce and discuss the analytical methods and policy frameworks needed to ensure that water use can be properly quantified over the life cycle and integrated into other measures within the green economy.

  • Fischer-Kowalski, M., M. Swilling, E. U. von Weizsäcker, Y. Ren, Y. Moriguchi, W. Crane, F. Krausmann, N. Eisenmenger, S. Giljum, P. Hennicke, P. Romero Lankao, A. Siriban Manalang, and  S. Sewerin.  2011.  Decoupling natural resource use and environmental impacts from economic growth. Nairobi, Kenya:  UNEP, International Resource Panel.

    The report presents basic facts and figures on natural resource flows worldwide and attempts to outline the issues that now need to be addressed to decouple these material and energy flows from social and economic progress.

  • Graedel, T. E., J. Allwood, J. P. Birat, B. K. Reck, S. F. Sibley, G. Sonnemann, M. Buchert, and C. Hagelüken. 2011. Recycling Rates of Metals – A Status Report. Nairobi, Kenya: UNEP International Resource Panel.

    In this report, a group of experts from industry, academia, and government evaluate recycling rate information for sixty different metals – essentially all the metals of the periodic table of elements.  In this effort recycling rates are carefully and clearly defined, and results then presented for all the metals for three important but different recycling rates.

  • Graedel, T. 2010. Metal Stocks in Society: Scientific Synthesis. Nairobi Kenya:UNEP, International Resource Panel.

    This report focuses on the stocks of metals in society and provides, from a global perspective, the best scientific information available on the quantity of metal stocks in the world.

  • Hertwich, E., E. van der Voet, S. Suh, A. Tukker, M. Huijbregts, P. Kazmierczyk, M. Lenzen, J. McNeely, and Y. Moriguchi. 2010. Assessing the Environmental Impacts of Consumption and Production: Priority Products and Materials. Nairobi, Kenya: UNEP, International Resource Panel.

    A fundamental question faced by governments worldwide is how different economic activities influence the use of natural resources and the generation of pollution.  This report is the result of extensive literature examination and review process, involving a number of experts, to provide a robust assessment of what economic activities have the highest impacts on the environment.

  • Bringezu, S., H. Schütz, M. O’Brien, L. Kauppi, R. W. Howarth, and J. McNeely. 2009. Towards sustainable production and use of resources: Assessing Biofuels. Nairobi, Kenya: UNEP, International Resource Panel.

    The report intends to provide policy relevant information on the assessment of the environmental and social costs and benefits of biofuels.  It examines both the concerns of critical developments, and describes the options for a more sustainable use of biomass and measures to increase resource productivity.