Assessment Areas & Reports


The International Resource Panel supports UNEP’s Resource Efficiency / Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) sub-programme.

The IRP’s scientific assessments cover the following areas:


Our work in this area of assessment seeks ways to achieve continued economic growth and human wellbeing without increasing resource consumption and adverse environmental impacts. This is known as ‘decoupling’. Our reports identify technological and policy opportunities to accelerate decoupling.


Our work on Cities is designed to help urban communities achieve decoupling at individual city level. It provides decision makers with scientific information on the intersection between urbanization trends and global material flows and identifies opportunities for sustainability-oriented innovations at the city-level, where an estimated 75% of the world’s natural resources are consumed.

Environmental Impacts

The area provides authoritative, policy-relevant assessments of the resource groups and materials that contribute most to adverse environmental impacts and resource scarcity, and provides options for decreasing these impacts. Its assessments include the latest scientific advice on issues such as the environmental impacts of greenhouse gas mitigation technologies.


Our work on water identifies ways to achieve greater water productivity, efficiency and sustainability. It provides a scientific basis for sustainable water management and improved water measurement, so that we can make best use of our planet’s aquatic resources in agriculture, industry and households, while ensuring environmental flows and the health of ecosystems.


IRP’s research into global metal flows area explores the potential for reuse and recycling of metals and the establishment of renewable material cycles by providing an authoritative scientific assessment of the global stocks and flows of metals.

Land and Soils

IRP’s work in this area aims at improving the sustainable management of land and soil resources including land potential, land productivity and soil resilience. Its assessments examine the impacts of development trends due to population growth, urbanization, and changes in diets and consumption behavior, on the dynamics of global land use. It includes assessing the consequences for biodiversity, the supply of food, fibers and fuel, and the implications for the health of nature and human society.


This research area examines the impact of global food systems on natural resource use and the environment, identifying opportunities to improve resource efficiency, achieve a transition towards more sustainable food systems, and enhance worldwide food security.


In partnership with the Secretariat of the United Nations Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (UN-REDD Programme) the International Resource Panel developed an assessment to improve understanding and knowledge about how to forge mutually reinforcing links between ongoing or planned REDD+ activities and the transition to a green economy.


This research area analyzes the physical dimensions of international trade to determine how the current system contributes and/or hinders the goal of increase resource efficiency in the global effort to decouple economic growth from environmental impacts.


Cross-Cutting Publications

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 ...