Planetary boundaries and resource efficiency? Workshop explores the potential for linkage

The concept of planetary boundaries can benefit from being linked with the resource efficiency approach, according to an international workshop that was organized by adelphi in collaboration with the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and the Stockholm Environment Institute.


The planetary boundaries illustrate how much humanity has already intervened in the environment, all around the globe. They indicate a safe operating space within which societies can develop. However, the further operationalisation of this globally designed concept is central for national implementation. To this end, science and politics discussed the limitations and possibilities of connecting planetary boundaries with the resource efficiency approach.

The bottom line is that resource efficiency and planetary boundaries can be mutually beneficial: resource efficiency can help to contribute to remaining in a safe area of action and to supporting the regional and national operationalisation of the planetary boundaries. At the same time, the planetary boundaries can legitimize resource-efficiency measures and guide efficiency strategies. However, resource efficiency needs to be complemented by other approaches to meet the global challenge of the planetary boundaries: This includes changing consumer behaviour and the transformation of production systems.

The workshop was part of a project for the operationalisation of the Planetary Borders that was carried out by adelphi together with the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and the Stockholm Environment Institute on behalf of the Federal Environment Agency. The project will analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the concept for science, society, politics, and business.