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International comparison of resource use and its relationto economic growthThe development of total material requirement, direct materialinputs and hidden flows and the structure of TMR

TitleInternational comparison of resource use and its relationto economic growthThe development of total material requirement, direct materialinputs and hidden flows and the structure of TMR
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2004
AuthorsBringezu S, Schütz H, Steger S, Baudisch J
Journal TitleEcological Economics
Volume51
Pages97-124
KeywordsDematerialization, Direct material input, EKC, Material flow analysis (MFA), Metabolism of the economy, Resource productivity, Total material requirements
AbstractResource flows constitute the materials basis of the economy. At the same time, they carry and induce an environmentalburden associated with resource extraction and the subsequent material flows and stocks, which finally end up as waste andemissions. A reduction of this material throughput and the related impacts would require a reduction of resource inputs. Andbreaking the link between resource consumption and economic growth would require an increase in resource productivity.Material flow analysis (MFA) can be used to quantify resource flows and indicate resource productivity. In this article, we studythe available empirical evidence on the actual (de-)linkage of material resource use and economic growth.We compare resource use with respect to total material requirement (TMR) and direct material input (DMI) for 11 and 26countries, respectively, and the European Union (EU-15). The dynamics of TMR, as well as of the main components areanalysed in relation to economic growth in order to show whether there is a decoupling (relative or absolute) from GDP and achange of the metabolic structure in the course of economic development. DMI/cap so far only decoupled from GDP/cap inrelative terms; that is, in most countries, it reached a rather constant level but—with the exception of Czech Republic—showedno absolute decline yet. TMR/cap was reduced in two high-income countries and one low-income country due to politicalinfluence. Changes in TMR were more influenced by hidden flows (HF) than by DMI. We analyse the dynamics of the structureand composition of TMR in the course of economic development. In general, the economic development of industrial countrieswas accompanied by a shift from domestic to foreign resource extraction. Different relations can be discovered for the share ofbiomass, fossil fuel resources, construction resources and metals and industrial minerals.D 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved
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