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International Resource Panel

International Resource Panel
TypeIndependent scientific panel
Key people
Janez Potočnik and Izabella Teixeira (co-chairs)
Parent organisation
UN Environment

The International Resource Panel is a scientific panel of experts that aims to help nations use natural resources sustainably without compromising economic growth and human needs. It provides independent scientific assessments and expert advice on a variety of areas, including:

  • the volume of selected raw material reserves and how efficiently these resources are being used
  • the lifecycle-long environmental impacts of products and services created and consumed around the globe
  • options to meet human and economic needs with fewer or cleaner resources.

The Secretariat of the IRP is hosted by the United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment) through its office in Paris, France.

Structure of the IRP

The Panel has more than 35 expert members drawn from a wide range of academic institutions and scientific disciplines, supported by a small Secretariat hosted by UNEP. It is co-chaired by Janez Potočnik, former European Commissioner for the Environment, and Izabella Teixeira, former Environment Minister of Brazil. Its Steering Committee is drawn from representatives of governments, the European Commission (EC) and UNEP. It guides the Panel’s strategic direction, ensures policy relevance, and oversees budgets.

History of the IRP

While climate change and biodiversity loss have emerged as the world’s most pressing environmental issues in recent decades, both issues are increasingly being seen as symptomatic of a broader problem of overuse of resources and lack of attention to the impacts on the environment they cause. The resources in question include materials (fossil fuels, biomass, construction minerals and metals), water, land and energy.

The 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment found that rapid rises in human demands for natural resources have caused substantial and irreversible loss of biodiversity[1] Our current rate of consumption of resources such as fossil fuels, metals, water and timber, is unsustainable and inequitable. WWF has pointed out that if we continue to consume resources at current levels, by 2050 we will need two planet’s worth of natural materials to support the human race.[2]

The concept of sustainable use of resources was placed on the global governance agenda in 1992 at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development or ‘Earth Summit’ in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.[3] By 2005, several leading international environmental organisations were undertaking disparate work related to natural resources. The OECD was investigating sustainable materials management,[4] the European Commission put forward a new Strategy on the Sustainable Use of Natural Resources used in Europe[5] and UN Environment was conducting detailed studies into the way we use resources and their impacts.[6]

A need for science

As various authorities began shaping policies to encourage sustainable consumption and production, two issues emerged. One was that the field was lacking the kind of rigorous scientific assessments that underpinned research into other environmental disciplines, such as climate change (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), biodiversity (Convention on Biological Diversity) and Ozone (Montreal Protocol). The other was that as raw materials are sourced, processed, manufactured into products, traded and consumed in locations around the world, any scientific assessments would need to be global in scope. Different regions also tended to treat the topic differently, depending on the volume of resources they used, methods they used to process resources and whether they had access to domestic resources or depended on imports.

International Resource Panel
The International Resource Panel provides scientific assessments related to the use of natural resources

The IRP was founded in 2007[7] as a way to address this void and support diverse efforts being made to shift the world towards sustainable consumption and production. By mid-2011, the IRP had released in-depth assessments on decoupling (the concept of separating economic growth from environmental degradation), biofuels, metal stocks, plus priority products and materials.[8]

The IRP has done a number of assessments, the topics of which include greenhouse gas mitigation technologies, efficiency of water use, trade, plus land and soils.

By providing the best available scientific information on using resources efficiently, the IRP aims to help the world shift to a ‘green economy’, where patterns of consumption and production are sustainable, all citizens have equitable access to resources and the enduring quality of the global commons is assured.

The Panel's mission is to:

  • Provide independent, coherent and authoritative scientific assessments of policy relevance on the sustainable use of natural resources and, in particular, their environmental impacts over the full life cycle.
  • Contribute to a better understanding of how to decouple economic growth from environmental degradation while enhancing human well-being.

What the IRP does

The IRP investigates the world’s most critical resource issues with a view to supporting governments, industry, and society to improve resource efficiency — a necessary condition to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

IRP Publications

The following list of reports and think pieces were published by the IRP between 2011-2020, categorized by themes. All publications are available

Panel members

Name Affiliation
Janez Potočnik Commissioner, European Commission – Environment (2010-2014), United Nations Champion of the Earth (2013), appointed Co-chair, International Resource Panel (2014).
Izabella Teixeira Minister of Environment, Brazil, 2016-16, Head of the Brazilian Delegation on negotiations of the Paris Agreement of the UN Convention on Climate Change. Appointed Co-Chair, International Resource Panel (2017)
Ashok Khosla International Resource Panel Co-Chair, President, IUCN, and Founder, Development Alternatives, India
Stefan Bringezu Director, Material Flows & Resource Management, Wuppertal Institute, Germany
Patrice Christmann Bureau de recherches géologiques et minières, France
Mark Swilling Professor, Sustainable Development, School of Public Leadership, Stellenbosch University.
Ester van der Voet Associate professor, Head of Industrial Ecology, Institute of Environmental Sciences (CML), Leiden University, the Netherlands
Marina Fischer-Kowalski Director, Institute of Social Ecology, Faculty for Interdisciplinary Studies, University of Klagenfurt, Austria
Maarten Hajer Director, Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency; Professor of Public Policy, University of Amsterdam
Edgar Hertwich Professor, Energy and Environmental Systems Analysis, Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Jeffrey (Jeff) Herrick Jeff Herrick works at the US Department of Agriculture and has adjunct appointments at New Mexico State University and the University of Colorado.
Paul Ekins Professor, Resources and Environmental Policy, Director of the UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources, and Director of Research at the School of Sustainable Resources and Energy at University College London.
Heinz Schandl Senior principal scientist, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), Canberra, Australia.
Nabil Z. Nasr Associate Provost for Academic Affairs and Director of Golisano Institute for Sustainability at Rochester Institute of Technology and Founder, RIT’s Centre for Remanufacturing and Resource Recovery.
Yonglong Lu Chair and Research Professor, Regional Ecological Risk Assessment and Environmental Management Group at Research Centre for Eco-Environmental Science, Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Elias T. Ayuk Director, United Nations University Institute for Natural Resources in Africa, Accra, Ghana.
Anu Ramaswami Charles M. Denny Jr Chair Professor of Science, Technology and Public Policy, Humphrey School of Public Affairs, Professor, Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering, University of Minnesota.
Michael Obersteiner Director, Ecosystems Services and Management, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Laxenburg, Austria.
Anders Wijkman Co-President, Club of Rome, Chairman, Swedish Association of Recycling Industries, Senior Adviser, Stockholm Environment Institute.
Vijay Kumar Distinguished Fellow, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI).
A. Erinç Yeldan Professor, Economics, Bilkent University, Turkey.
Hans Bruyninckx Executive Director, European Environment Agency.
Antonio M.A. Pedro Director, Sub-Regional Office for Eastern Africa, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.
Bruno M.C. Oberle Professor, Green Economy and Resource Governance, École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL).
Anthony Chiu Professor, College of Engineering, De La Salle University-Manila.
Porfirio Álvarez-Torres Executive Secretary, Consortium of Marine Research Institutions of the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean.
Seiji Hashimoto Professor, Ritsumeikan University.
Serge Salat President, Urban Morphology and Complex Systems Institute, Paris.
Stefanie Hellweg Professor, Ecological Systems Design, Institute of Environmental Engineering, Department Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering, École polytechnique fédérale de Zurich (ETH).
Stephen Fletcher Head, Marine Programme, UN Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre, Cambridge, UK, Associate Professor, Marine Policy, Plymouth University.
Bing Zhu Director, Institute for Circular Economy and a Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering at Tsinghua University, China.
Stephen Hatfield-Dodds Executive Director, ABARES - the economics and science bureau of the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, Australia.
Saleem Ali Distinguished Professor, Energy and Environment, University of Delaware.
Eeva Primmer Research Professor, Environmental Policy, Finnish Environment Institute SKYE.
Keisuke Nansai Head,International Material Cycles Section, Centre for Material Cycles and Waste Management Research, National Institute for Environmental Studies, Japan.
Reid Lifeset Research Scholar and Resident Fellow in Industrial Ecology at Yale University, Associate Director of the Industrial Environmental Management Program, and Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Industrial Ecology.
Helga Weisz Full Professor of Industrial Ecology and Climate Change at Humboldt University Berlin and Affiliated Professor at the Institute of Social Ecology of Alpen-Adria University in Vienna

Steering Committee members

Government Department
Argentina Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development
Belgium OVAM - Flemish Public Waste Agency
Canada Environment and Climate change Canada
Chile Ministry of Environment
China Ministry of Environmental Protection
Costa Rica Ministry of Environment and Energy
Finland Ministry of the Environment
France Ministry of Ecological and Solidarity Transition
Germany Federal Ministry for the Environment Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety
India Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change
Indonesia Ministry of Environment and Forestry
Italy Ministry for the Environment, Land and Sea Proection
Japan Ministry of Environment
Jordan Ministry of Environment
Kazakhstan Ministry of Energy
Kenya Ministry of Environment
Mexico Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources
Netherlands Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment
Norway Norwegian Environment Agency
Peru Ministry of Environment
Philippines Department of Environment and Natural Resources
South Africa Department of Environment Affairs
Sweden Swedish Environmental Protection Agency and Swedish Ministry of the Environment
Switzerland Federal Office for the Environment
Tunisia Ministry of Environment
USA Environmental Protection Agency
Viet Nam Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment
Intergovernmental Organization Department (if applicable)
European Commission Environment Directorate-General
UN Environment UN Environment

Strategic Partners

Strategic Partners
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
International Council for Science (ICSU)
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD)
World Economic Forum (WEF)
Ellen McArthur Foundation (EMF)
SUN Foundation
World Economic Forum (WEF)
PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL)


  1. ^ Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, (2005). Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Synthesis. Island Press, Washington, DC.
  2. ^ WWF (2006), Living Planet Report.
  3. ^ Doris A. Fuchs and Sylvia Lorek, Sustainable Consumption Governance: A History of Promises and Failures[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ OECD OECD's Work on Sustainable Materials & Waste Management
  5. ^ European Commission, Sustainable Use of Natural Resources
  6. ^ UNEP Annual Report 2005 Sustainable Living
  7. ^ [1]
  8. ^ UNEP Publications Archived 2016-05-13 at the Portuguese Web Archive

External links