28 June 2021

Infrastructure consumes more than half the world’s materials - it will be key to advancing sustainable production and consumption

28 June 2021

Infrastructure consumes more than half of the world’s projected materials annually, and G20 countries are responsible for around 70% of this consumption, based on the International Resource Panel’s model*. The model forecasts indicate that materials consumption by the infrastructure sector will be 68% higher than the current levels in 2060, and would impose an even greater burden on the planet’s finite resources.  

Given that infrastructure is the dominant user of materials, the sector is integral to advancing sustainable production and consumption patterns (Sustainable Development Goal 12) through the adoption of a circular economy approach. A circular economy is an economic system that organises production, supply and consumption of materials into closed loops, thereby reducing the pressure on the world’s finite materials and natural resource depletion. 

The GI Hub has launched a circular economy initiative to examine the role of infrastructure in the transition to a circular economy. Infrastructure has a dual role to play, in (1) integrating circular economy principles into the infrastructure itself, and (2) building infrastructure that supports circular economy activity. Climate change, private capital mobilisation, resource scarcity and waste are the four main drivers for the transition of infrastructure towards a circular economy. To explore in more detail, visit the GI Hub Infrastructure and the Circular Economy webpage.

*Note: These estimates are based on the work of the International Resource Panel’s modelling workstream. It employs a population, urbanisation and economic growth scenario to the Socio-Economic Pathways 2 of the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) ‘Middle of the Road Scenario’Infrastructure materials include iron and steel, concrete, bricks, non-ferrous metals and structural timberAside from infrastructure, the other major contributors to global material usage include fossil fuel extraction and biomass. 

Subscribe