The growth of the economy and of the world population (9 billion by 2050) will place greater and faster pressure on the Earth's natural resources. If we continue to use these resources at the current pace, we will need the equivalent of more than two planets to meet our needs by 2050.
Natural resources (fuels, minerals, metals, water, biomass, clean air, etc.) and ecosystem services are essential to our health and quality of life. They are also essential for the development of our industrialised economies. But the quantity of these resources is limited.
Fierce competition in the world to exploit, procure and manage certain resources is resulting in shortage, price instability, degradation of ecosystems and changes in the climate system.
That is why it is necessary to change our production and consumption modes by using the earth's resources in a more sustainable manner and by reducing negative impacts on the environment. This call for creating value with less material and consuming differently.
In order to achieve this, it is necessary that the various economic players (companies, consumers and government) change their fundamental behaviour. How?
The European Union has initiated this thought-process on the use of natural resources.
Here are some examples of actions that will help in limiting pressure on the resources:
- increase recycling of materials and reuse the product components;
- replace the most critical resources by other more efficient ones and which have less impact on the environment throughout their life cycle (during phases pertaining to extraction, transportation, processing, consumption and waste disposal);
- extend the useful life of products;
- increase reuse or exchange of products.
This search for efficiency should not however be at any price.
Therefore we must get to understand these new risks.