Environmental Impact of the Use of Natural Resources (EIRES)
The aim of the study “Environmental Impact of the use of natural Resources (EIRES)” performed for the EU commission DG-JRC, IPTS was to support the development of the EU “Thematic Strategy for the Sustainable Use of Natural Resources”.
EU Commission (DG-JRC) – European Union
The EIRES project was a colaborative project between 2.-0 LCA consultants and the Technical University of Denmark. The study arrived at its conclusions by extracting and assessing the science-based evidence from eight previous studies that covered a range of methodological approaches. Project completed November 2004.
Investigating the driving forces for environmental impacts – resource use or core activities?
In general, there are no straightforward relationships between resource use and environmental impacts, apart from the environmental impacts directly related to resource extraction. This is the main conclusion from the study “Environmental impact of the use of natural resources (EIRES)” performed for The EU commission DG-JRC, IPTS, in 2003-2004 to support the development of the EU “Thematic Strategy for the Sustainable Use of Natural Resources”.
Thus, there are only few obvious targets for policies aiming to reduce the environmental impacts through regulating resource use:
- The link between use of fossil fuels and “global warming potential” and “potential acidifying effect”.
- Use of specific metals, where there is a clear and linear relationship to environmental impacts from metal extraction and refining. A reduction in use of these metals will lead to a direct reduction in the associated impacts.
- Area occupation, where it is the resource use itself that is of environmental concern. A reduction in area occupation will reduce the pressure on biodiversity.
- Construction materials, where the resource use drives the waste stream, albeit mostly with a significant delay corresponding to the lifetime of the constructions.
Rather, the first order driving forces for environmental impacts should be found in a limited number of human activities, which may be referred to as “core activities”:
- Combustion processes
- Solvent use
- Metal extraction and refining
- Dissipative uses of heavy metals
- Housing and infrastructure
- Marine activities
- Chemical industry
The study arrives at these conclusions by extracting and assessing the science-based evidence from eight previous studies that cover a range of methodological approaches, ranging from “top-down-approaches” where impacts are determined from National Accounting Matrices extended by Environmental Accounting (NAMEA) to “bottom-up-approaches” where environmental impacts are determined from Life Cycle Assessments.
To further investigate the links between driving forces and environmental impact, the study recommends the development of a detailed European NAMEA.