CORNERSTONES OF THE MATERIAL DIMENSIONS OF THE EU ECONOMY

Date of publication: 
02/25/2014

This Working Paper presents key parameters (cornerstones) for the material dimensions of the EU27 economy. In 2005, 5.5 billion tonnes of material were extracted from the European environment and net imports amounted to 1.2 billion tonnes. In total, including roughly 1 billion tonnes of recycled material and excluding exports, the EU27 processed 7.7 billion tonnes of material. While 3.3 billion tonnes were used to build and maintain stocks, 4.9 billion tonnes were emitted into nature in 2005. Amongst these flows, biomass (28% of processed material), fossil fuel carriers (26%) and construction minerals (39%) play major roles due to the quantities involved, environmental pressures and interdependencies between flows. In the context of the socio-ecological transition, which is characterised by planetary boundaries and (sooner or later) resource constraints, these flows will have to be reduced significantly. At present, no economic model either currently available or in sight interlinks with environmental models in a two-way manner. To partly deal with this deficiency, we propose to use the simple material-based model presented here to enable discussions on the physical feasibility of economic model outcomes, be it for the past or for scenarios concerned with the socio-ecological transition.

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