New tool tracks countries’ resource footprints


Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, has partnered with other researchers from the University of Sydney, UNSW Sydney, the University of Vienna and the United Nations Environment Program to develop the material fingerprint indicator.

The tool tracks and monitors individual country reports on international materials supply chains to provide credible, science-based information on countries’ material footprints, and has been described in Sustainability of nature today. Research shows that the global material footprint has quadrupled since 1970 and is not expected to decrease significantly for decades.

The material footprint of a country captures the raw materials it consumes in the country, showing where these resources come from in the world. For example, materials used to make cars in Japan that are exported to Australia fall into Australia’s material footprint.

Dr Heinz Schandl, Head of the CSIRO Group for Urban and Industrial Transformations, is the coordinating author of the article.

“The size of our global material footprint has implications for climate change mitigation, biodiversity, and waste and pollution outcomes,” said Dr Schandl.

“Net zero carbon can only be achieved if it is supported by a significant change in the composition of materials reducing the share of carbon-intensive materials, for example, in construction and transport.

“Australian governments can leverage the measurement of the material footprint and the new global capacity to inform resource productivity, recycling and clean energy, net zero and waste reduction efforts. This places Australia as a world leader in informing the decoupling of economic growth and living standards from negative environmental and climate impacts. “

Although the tool builds on existing data provided by each country, there is currently no international reporting system that provides comprehensive, detailed, continuous and timely information on country material footprints that enable countries to undertake. their own footprint analysis and compare it with other countries.

The easy-to-use tool will enable government agencies, statistical offices, academics, consultants and practitioners to support evidence-based decision making to reduce the material footprint of economic development.

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