Identifying priority areas for European resource policies: a MRIO-based material footprint assessment

Stefan Giljum, Hanspeter Wieland, Franz Stephan Lutter, Martin Bruckner, Richard Wood, Arnold Tukker, Konstantin Stadler

Publication: Scientific journalJournal articlepeer-review

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In the context of the transformation toward a &#8220;green economy,&#8221; issues related to natural resource use have rapidly increased in importance in European and international policy debates. The large number of studies applying economy-wide material flow analysis so far mostly produced aggregated national indicators, making the results difficult to connect to policies, which are often designed for single sectors or consumption areas. This paper provides a detailed assessment of the composition of EU&#8217;s material footprint in its global context, aiming at identifying the main product groups contributing to overall material consumption and specifying the geographical sources for the raw materials required to satisfy EU&#8217;s final demand. Based on multi-regional input&#8211;output (MRIO) modeling, we apply production layer decomposition to assess supply chains and their structural changes from 1995 to 2011. The global MRIO database used in this study is EXIOBASE 3, which disaggregates 200 products and 163 industries, of which 33 represent material extraction sectors. By that means, we increase the level of detail to a degree where policies can more easily connect to. We find that the generally growing material footprint of the EU was characterized by a dramatic shift regarding the origin of raw materials, with the share of materials extracted within the EU territory falling from 68 % in 1995 to 35 % in 2011. In 2011, raw materials extracted in China to produce exports to the EU already contributed an equal share to EU&#8217;s material footprint as material extraction within the EU itself. Import dependency is most critical for the material group of metal ores, with only 13 % of all metals required as inputs to EU final demand stemming from within the EU. Regarding product composition, construction was confirmed as the most important sector contributing to the material footprint, followed by the group of manufacturing products based on biomass. <...>
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1 - 24
JournalJournal of Economic Structures
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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