Assessing the environmental and social impacts of biofuel production and the sustainable recycling of metals are likely to top the agenda of a new global think tank on resource efficiency, set up by the United Nations on 9 November.
The International Panel for Sustainable Resource Management, set up by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), was launched on the occasion of the third World Science Forum.
The objective of the panel, originally proposed by the Commission in the EU strategy on the sustainable use of natural resources in 2005, is to strengthen the global scientific base for resource management. Its ultimate aim is to contribute to the global challenge of decoupling economic growth from resource use.
Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said the panel "can fill a major gap in our knowledge by providing an independent scientific assessment of the environmental impacts of using renewable and non-renewable resources."
He said that the lack of authoritative scientific evidence to date has clearly hampered efforts to develop policies in this area and gave assurances that "the Commission will take full account of its advice in [its] policy-making." Dimas also promised continuous EU funding for the panel's work.
The Commissioner then highlighted two issues that he hopes will be high on the panel's agenda:
First, the efficiency and impact of metal recycling schemes around the world. "I believe we will soon need a global strategy for the sustainable recycling of metals to protect the environment and our resources," said Dimas, stating that recycling metals can save up to 90% of the energy needed to extract metal ores from the earth.
Secondly, "we have to ensure that biofuels are sustainable," said Dimas, in relation to the EU's binding target of increasing the share of biofuels to 10% by 2020 - provided that the biofuels are produced sustainably and that second-generation biofuels are developed. "Both environmental and social impacts will have to be taken into account," added Dimas.