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Implementing the material footprint to measure progress towards Sustainable Development Goals 8 and 12

Manfred Lenzen, Arne Geschke, James West, Jacob Fry, Arunima Malik, Stefan Giljum, Llorenç Milà i Canals, Pablo Piñero, Stephan Lutter, Thomas Wiedmann, Mengyu Li, Maartje Sevenster, Janez Potočnik, Izabella Teixeira, Merlyn Voore, Keisuke Nansai and Heinz Schandl ()
Additional contact information
Manfred Lenzen: The University of Sydney
Arne Geschke: The University of Sydney
James West: Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)
Jacob Fry: The University of Sydney
Arunima Malik: The University of Sydney
Stefan Giljum: Vienna University of Economics and Business
Llorenç Milà i Canals: United Nations Environment Programme
Pablo Piñero: Vienna University of Economics and Business
Stephan Lutter: Vienna University of Economics and Business
Thomas Wiedmann: University of New South Wales (UNSW)
Mengyu Li: The University of Sydney
Maartje Sevenster: Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)
Janez Potočnik: United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), International Resource Panel
Izabella Teixeira: United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), International Resource Panel
Merlyn Voore: United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), International Resource Panel
Keisuke Nansai: Material Cycles Division, National Institute for Environmental Studies
Heinz Schandl: Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)

Nature Sustainability, 2022, vol. 5, issue 2, 157-166

Abstract: Abstract Sustainable development depends on decoupling economic growth from resource use. The material footprint indicator accounts for environmental pressure related to a country’s final demand. It measures material use across global supply-chain networks linking production and consumption. For this reason, it has been used as an indicator for two Sustainable Development Goals: 8.4 ‘resource efficiency improvements’ and 12.2 ‘sustainable management of natural resources’. Currently, no reporting facility exists that provides global, detailed and timely information on countries’ material footprints. We present a new collaborative research platform, based on multiregional input–output analysis, that enables countries to regularly produce, update and report detailed global material footprint accounts and monitor progress towards Sustainable Development Goals 8.4 and 12.2. We show that the global material footprint has quadrupled since 1970, driven mainly by emerging economies in the Asia-Pacific region, but with an indication of plateauing since 2014. Capital investments increasingly dominate over household consumption as the main driver. At current trends, absolute decoupling is unlikely to occur over the next few decades. The new collaborative research platform allows to elevate the material footprint to Tier I status in the SDG indicator framework and paves the way to broaden application of the platform to other environmental footprint indicators.

Date: 2022
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DOI: 10.1038/s41893-021-00811-6

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