PARIS: Extraction of Earth’s natural resources could surge 60 per cent by 2060, imperilling climate goals and economic prosperity, the UN said on Friday, calling for dramatic changes in energy, food, transport and housing.

Enormous expansion of infrastructure, energy demand and consumer consumption over the last half century, particularly in wealthier countries, has driven a tripling of the world’s use of materials, according to the Global Resource Outlook by the UN Environment Programme’s Internatio­nal Resource Panel.

And the hunger for natural resources — everything from food to fossil fuels — keeps growing by an average of more than 2.3 per cent per year, it said.

People in wealthy countries drive most of that demand, using six times more materials and responsible for ten times more climate impact than those in low-income countries, according to the analysis.

Extraction and processing of the huge amount of resources accounts for over 60 per cent of planet-warming emissions, the report said, as well as devastating ecosystems and harming human health.

Lead author Hans Bruyninckx said the current trajectory would cause the world to far exceed the temperature limits set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement, in which countries agreed to cap global warming “well below” two degrees Celsius and preferably at 1.5C.

“You’ve got resource use that is increasing, too much impact on Earth systems that is not tenable,” he said, adding that unequal access to resources across the world was also “untenable”.

But he acknowledged that natural resources would be needed “to turn things around”, both to boost development in poorer nations and to provide the minerals and metals needed for the energy transition.

The report follows an agreement by countries at UN climate negotiations last year in Dubai, to triple global renewable energy capacity this decade and “transition away” from polluting fossil fuels.

Published in Dawn, March 2nd, 2024

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