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Energy transition, resource transition and nutrition transition go hand in hand

For about 30 years Friedrich “Bio” Schmidt-Bleek has been calling for a reduction of the resource consumption that has been a feature of our industrial economy by a factor of 10, i.e. by 90% to one tenth.

In addition to specific energy policy measures, meeting the 1.5 degree target also requires an increase in resource efficiency. Our results in meetPASS point in this direction once again: without “dematerialisation” – reduction of resource consumption – climate policy will not succeed.

In the meetPASS scenario it was assumed that resource productivity in 50 important technology areas will increase by 1% per year with an amortisation period of 5 years for the required investments. “With regard to metal ores in the COP21 scenario it is assumed, that up to 2050 half of the primary metal ore inputs in basic metal production will be substituted by secondary metal ores.” In addition, an “upstream tax on metal ores and non-metallic minerals” was assumed, which will rise to 25% by 2050. A genuine circular economy (= dematerialisation) on the one hand and climate protection on the other belong inseparably together.

Finally, it was assumed that a profound and detailed information programme for fostering resource efficiency would be established:

  • The efficiency improvements cover only a narrow selection of 50 technologies.
  • The achievable improvements in resource efficiency with regard to the selected technology are rather low (+ 1% p.a.).
  • The assumed costs, that are necessary to harvest the efficiency gains, are rather high (2 times the achieved savings of one year for research & development expenditures, 1 times the achieved savings of one year for consultancy expenditures and 2.5 times the savings of one year for capital expenditures).

The modelling of the meetPASS scenario with the GINFORS model indicates that the use of these instruments generates a resource saving that is roughly equal to the simultaneously assumed decarbonisation according to IPCC specifications. While in the “business as usual”, global resource productivity (GDP/RMIabiotic) would only go up by less than 0.5% per year, it would almost tripple in the meetpass scenario until 2050 (+180%), while RMCabiotic per capita would go down by 56% instead of an increase by some 20% in the BAU. In Europe (EU 27), those effects are even stronger. Resource productivity would increase by a factor of 4, while RMCabiotic per capita would reduce by 63% from 12.1 to 4.3 tones (and in meetPASS+ by almost 70% to 3.5).

With regard to dietary habits two assumptions have been made: The first one concerns food waste. In this regard it is assumed that within the next three decades on each stage (biomass inputs in food production, food & beverage inputs in restaurant services, final consumption expenditures for food & beverages) a reduction of 10% in mass inputs will be achieved without losses in qualitative output.

The second assumption concerns the per capita meat demand. In this regard the meetPASS scenario assumes a growth rate that is by 2-3 percentage points lower than in the BAU scenario. This assumption leads to considerable reductions in per capita meat demand (in kg per year) not only in developed countries.

In a third scenario called “meetPASS+”, transformative elements from civil society like a shift towards less materialistic life styles are are added on top to the meetPASS scenario.

In this regard it is assumed, that more and more people reduce their working hours and therefore have to reduce their consumption expenditures, as they value the gains in leisure time higher than the losses in (materialistic) consumption. This assumption is applied for industrialized countries only. Concerning the magnitude/speed of this transformative element it is assumed, that until 2050 on average the working time per employee will be reduced by 20% (compared to the COP21 scenario without this transformative element).

The good news – as already communicated – is that such a reduction is possible without economic collapse. The economy would even grow faster (globally by 100% instead of “only” by 85%). And in Europe the economically stimulating effect would be even stronger. Instead of the expected 31% increase in Europe’s gross domestic product (which means less than 1% on average annually) without a stronger climate and resource policy, 45% would be possible which would correspond to an increase in growth of almost 50%.

Presentation on the results (PDF)

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