UNEP Executive Director, Ms. Inger Andersen, delivered opening remarks ‘International Resource Panel: a new era of social and economic prosperity’ (read her opening remarks here) at 26th Meeting of the International Resource Panel (IRP), which took place virtually from 19-23 October 2020. In her speech she commended the work of the IRP over the past 13 years in bringing policy solutions to unsustainable consumption and production driving the triple planetary crisis: biodiversity, climate and pollution.  She also challenged the IRP to consider four questions in shaping the new IRP strategic plan:  

  • How can the IRP’s research be taken outside the environment and developed world arena? Inger highlighted that every sector and actor driving unsustainable resource use, from infrastructure to agriculture, needs to be engaged in the circularity journey. IRP solutions must be inclusive and relevant to different country groupings, to minorities within countries, to provide guidance for their unique circumstances. In this respect, the forthcoming research on the distributional impacts of resource efficiency and circular economy policies is a good starting point. 

  • How do we build a global movement on sustainable consumption and production? Inger Andersen was pleased to see that the IRP has joined forces with the One Planet Network to make sustainable consumption and production more actionable and that a report will be presented at UNEA-5 showcasing how to do this in the fields of construction, food systems and textiles. The Executive Director challenged the IRP to pose questions that go beyond efficiency and look at broader impacts of resource use. Furthermore, Inger recommended that the composition of the Panel be widened beyond its current scope, so that it truly represents global voices and global experiences.

  • How can the IRP lead discussions at the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) in 2021? In 2021, the UN’s HLPF will draw a laser focus on SDG 12 on sustainable consumption and production. This is a major opportunity for the IRP to drive global conversation to step up real and meaningful progress on this SDG, which is the bedrock of a sustainable future. How do we use this moment to increase uptake of the IRP’s solutions?

  • How do we use digital tools to strengthen impact? We are in the midst of the fastest disruption in human history. According to the World Economic Forum, by 2022, 60 per cent of global GDP will be digitalized. Some 90 per cent of today’s data was produced in the last two years. In terms of digital tools for the environment, we have progressed in monitoring platforms, but more is needed to influence behaviour. The IRP Global Material Flows Database is a good step in this direction to effectively inform decision-making. But how can tools such as the World Environment Situation Room be used? How can we use blockchain to track goods through the supply chain and alter their impact? Which applications can we use to help consumers adopt sustainable practices? 

After a fruitful discussion and exchange with the Executive Director, the Secretariat presented the IRP’s key achievements in 2020, in a video that also outlines the plans for 2021.


During the meeting, a number of new study areas were endorsed, including ‘Advancing the Circular Economy in Consumer Electronic Goods’ and ‘Finance for Sustainable Minerals Production’. Planning for the development of the ‘2023 Global Resources Outlook,’ the IRPs flagship report, was discussed. The 2021 ‘Strategic Planning Exercise’ which is being conducted to develop the 2022-2025 IRP Work Programme was reviewed, to ensure that all stakeholders are engaged in the process. Furthermore, a joint UNEP/UNDP session took place, discussing the environmental dimension of the UNDP Human Development Report 2020. Among other things, IRP members recommended the report improve metrics that connect human well-being to environmental impacts. 

Inger Andersen and the IRP Secretariat thanked departing panel member Dr Patrice Christmann for his long-standing service to the IRP and extended a warm welcome to new panel member Prof. Joanna Kulczycka, Head and Founder of the Department of Policy and Strategic Research and Professor at AGH University of Mining and Technology.  

The virtual meeting, chaired by Panel Co-Chairs Dr Izabella Teixeira and Dr Janez Potočnik, as well as IRP Steering Committee Co-Chairs Ms Astrid Schomaker and Mr Mark Radka brought together around 100 participants, including Panel members, Steering Committee members from 24 countries, Strategic Partners and three observing countries (Poland, Slovenia and the UK).  By conducting the 26th IRP meeting virtually, a total of 69 tonnes of CO2 were saved from flights alone [1]. This is roughly equivalent to the annual CO2 emissions of 15 typical passenger vehicles [2].


[1] The UN ICAO Carbon Emissions Calculator adjusted for UNEP was used to calculate the total amount of CO2 saved. Learn more about the methodology here.

[2] According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a typical passenger vehicle emits about 4.6 metric tonnes of CO2 every year.