Vital Signs & Outlooks

Consumption of natural resources is steadily increasing with population growth and development. Overconsumption of natural resources threatens the fundamental economic, social and environmental systems on which our development relies. Inefficient use of natural resources contributes to resource scarcities. Recent resource crises related to food scarcity, energy production, and water availability, have highlighted the vulnerability of countries managing natural resources in a world economy interlinked with expanding production and consumption chains. These crises have demonstrated the need for improved resource efficiencies, resource alternatives, and early warning of resource scarcities at the country level. The sustainable management of resources, a critical objective in the effort to reconcile socio-economic development and environmental preservation on a global scale, requires improved resource efficiencies and alternatives. UNEP’s stakeholders need timely information on the extent, nature and impact of resource use globally. They require reliable data and credible science on resource flows, scarcities and impacts associated with a globalizing economy, and its translation into policy-relevant information products.

Currently, there is a lack of actionable synthesized information on alternatives and efficiencies and a need for more timely alerts of impending resource scarcities to inform policies, research, and management. Economic outlooks published by economic bodies and policy research institutes rarely contain linkages to the natural resources and ecosystem services that contribute to economic development. Environmental outlooks that incorporate economic linkages provided to decision-makers in a timely and accessible manner would result in more efficient use of natural resources and a refocusing on sustainable economies. Such outlooks must be legitimate, scientifically credible and policy relevant. Targeted outlooks would improve our understanding of the linkages between environmental, economic and social aspects of resource efficiencies at appropriate regional and national scales with clearly linked policy recommendations. Identifying and alerting to resource scarcities would provide early warning on emerging issues for consideration by decision makers.