12th Meeting of the International Resource Panel

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Mark Swilling will attend the 12th Meeting of the International Resource Panel (IRP) in Berlin taking place on 22-26 April, hosted by the German Government. The IRP was established in 2007 in response to the 4th Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which made it clear that the global economy needs to be restructured (see http://www.unep.org/resourcepanel/ ).

The IRP has 23 members, all experts in sustainable resource use from many different regions of the world. A Steering Committee made up of UN Member States is responsible for overall governance, and UNEP provides the Secretariat. The primary focus of the IRP is on ways to restructure the global economy so that the rate of economic growth can be decoupled from the rates of global resource use (measured in tons). Unless there is an absolute reduction in the total quantity of materials required to sustain a global population of 9.5 billion people by 2050, civilization as we know will not survive. To this end, the IRP has generated a number of different expert reports.

One of the first was entitled Decoupling Natural Resource Use and Environmental Impacts from Economic which set the conceptual framework for the work of the IRP – Mark Swilling was one of the two co-lead authors of this report. Last week a second report that was led by Mark Swilling was released by the Directors of UNEP and UN-Habitat – entitled City-Level Decoupling: Natural Resource Flows and the Governance of Infrastructure Transitions. This report applies the decoupling concept to cities and argues that urban infrastructures that conduct the flow of the bulk of resources required by cities must become the focus of policies that envisaged more sustainable modes of consumption and production.

Mark Swilling will present a Terms of Reference for his next project to the IRP meeting next week, namely a critical assessment of the SMART City agendas that are now being promoted globally by many large technology companies. He would like to test claims that the SMART City solutions can result in more resource-efficient low carbon cities that are also more equitable.