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Environmental Impacts


Green Energy Choices: the Benefits, Risks and Trade-Offs of Low-Carbon Technologies for Electricity Production (2015)

Full report ENGLISH

Summary Report ENGLISH

Summary Report: Errata note ENGLISH

Factsheet ENGLISH | FRENCH

Infographic ENGLISH

Infographic: Errata note ENGLISH

Power Point Presentation (PDF) ENGLISH

Videos ENGLISH | FRENCH

Webinar ENGLISH


Rising energy demand and efforts to combat climate change require a significant increase in low-carbon electricity generation. Yet, concern has been raised that rapid investment in some novel technologies could cause a new set of environmental problems. The report of the International Resource Panel (IRP) Green Energy Choices: The Benefits, Risks and Trade-Offs of Low-Carbon Technologies for Electricity Production aims to support policy-makers in making informed decision about energy technologies, infrastructures and optimal mix.

The findings of the report show that, compared to coal, electricity generated by hydro, wind, solar and geothermal power can bring substantial reductions in greenhouse gases emissions (by more than 90%), and also of pollutants harmful to human health and ecosystems (by 60-90%). The capture and storage of CO2 from fossil fuel power plants will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 70%, but increase the pollution damaging human health and ecosystems by 5-80%.

The key to sound energy decisions lies in selecting the right mix of technologies according to local or regional circumstances and putting in place safeguard procedures to mitigate and monitor potential impacts. This demands careful assessment of various impacts of different alternatives, so as to avoid the unintended negative consequences, and to achieve the most desirable mix of environmental, social and economic benefits.

Assessing the Environmental Impacts of Consumption and Production: Priority Products and Materials (2010)

 

Full report ENGLISH

 

Summary Report ENGLISH | FRENCH | JAPANESE | SPANISH

 

Factsheet ARABIC | CHINESE | ENGLISH | FRENCH | JAPANESE | RUSSIAN | SPANISH

This synopsis highlights key findings from the following reports of the International Resource Panel: A) Priority products and materials: assessing the environmental impacts of consumption and production; B) Decoupling natural resource use and environmental impacts from economic growth; C) Metal Stocks in Society; D) Recycling Rates of Metals; and E) Assessing biofuels: towards sustainable production and use of resources. Over the next two years, the IRP will deepen its assessments of consumption and production, decoupling, metals and biomass. It will deliver further reports on water, soil and land use and environmental impacts of trade.

The knowledge base that the IRP provides supports policy makers and business leaders as they embark on the journey of decoupling economic activity from resource use and emissions to enable the global economy to operate within the limits of the Earth’s resources, climate and ecosystems, while providing equal opportunity and wellbeing to a projected nine billion people on this planet.

Reports & Publications

  • Unlocking the Sustainable Potential of Land Resources: Evaluation Systems, Strategies and Tools

    Land resources are one of nature’s most precious gifts. They feed us and help our societies and economies to thrive. Some 2.5 billion agricultural smallholders worldwide....


  • Food systems and natural resources

    Global food systems have radically changed over the last 50 years. Food production has more than  doubled, diets have become more varied (and often more energy-intense) satisfying people’s preferences ...


  • Options for Decoupling Economic Growth from Water Use and Water Pollution

    Global trends point to a relative decoupling of water – that is, the rate of water resource use is increasing at a rate slower than that of economic growth. The Options for Decoupling Economic Growth from...


  • Green energy choices: The benefits, risks and trade-offs of low-carbon technologies for electricity production

    This report represents the first in-depth international comparative assessment of the environmental, health and resource impacts of different low-carbon technologies for electricity production… ...


  • International Trade in Resources: A Biophysical Assessment                                                                                                                          

    This latest report from the IRP analyses the role of international trade in increasing resource efficiency, reducing environmental impact and promoting equitable and inclusive growth? ...


  • Assessing Global Land Use: Balancing Consumption with Sustainable Supply

    This report explores how the management of land-based biomass production and consumption can be developed towards a higher degree of sustainability across different scales: from the sustainable...


  • Assessing the Environmental Impacts of Consumption and Production: Priority Products and Materials

    This report focuses not on the effects of environmental pressure, but on its causes. It describes pressures as resulting from economic activities. These activities are pursued for a purpose, ...


  • City Level Decoupling: Urban Resource Flows and the Governance of Infrastructure Transitions

    This report examines the potential for decoupling at the city level. While the majority of the worlds population now live in cities and cities are where most resource consumption takes place, ...


  • Measuring Water Use in a Green Economy
     

    Water is an essential resource for virtually all aspects of human enterprise, from agriculture via urbanization to energy and industrial production. Equally, the many uses for water create pressures...


  • Decoupling Natural Resources Use and Environmental Impacts from Economic Growth

    Humankind has witnessed phenomenal economic and social development in the past century. However, there are increasing signs that it has come at a cost to the environment and to the availability of ...


  • Towards Sustainable Production and Use of Resources: Assessing Biofuels

    This report provides an overview of the key problems and perspectives and use of biofuels. It is based on an extensive literature study, taking into account recent major reviews.


  • Building Natural Capital: How REDD+ can Support a Green Economy

    This report advocates placing REDD+ into a larger planning framework that should involve multiple influences (especially those driving deforestation, albeit sometimes inadvertently).


  • Decoupling 2: Technologies, Opportunities and Policy Options
     

    This report was produced by the Decoupling Working Group of the IRP. It explores technological possibilities and opportunities for both developing and developed countries to ...


  • Metal Stocks in Society: Scientific Synthesis
     

    The continued increase in the use of metals over the twentieth century has led to a substantial shift from geological resource base to metal stocks in society. This report reviews the relevant literature on this topic.


  • Recycling Rates of Metals: A Status Report
     

    In theory, metals can be used over and over again, minimizing the need to mine and process virgin materials and thus saving substantial amounts of energy and water while minimizing environmental ...


  • Environmental Risks and Challenges of Anthropogenic Metals Flows and Cycles

    This report focuses on the impact of metals on the environment as well as on their life cycle energy use. Currently primary metals production is responsible for 78 % of the total global energy use ...


  • Metal Recycling: Opportunities, Limits, Infrastructure
     

    A key question that relates to the very broad and intensive use of metals is whether society needs to be concerned about long-term supplies of any or many of them. This is a many-faceted question ...