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ERC FINEPRINT

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Spatially explicit material footprints:
Fine-scale assessment of Europe’s global environmental and social impacts

ERC Consolidator Grant for Stefan Giljum and the Global Resource Use team
July 2017-June 2022
Background

Our consumption in Europe causes environmental and social impacts all over the world – we are leaving a global footprint. Many of the impacts relate to the extraction of raw materials, such as deforestation in tropical regions, increased water scarcity due to irrigation or violent conflicts related to mining activities.

Objectives

The FINEPRINT project aims at overcoming this limitations of current footprint models by moving the analysis from the national to a detailed spatial level. FINEPRINT will develop a spatially explicit footprint model, which will allow tracing products consumed in European countries back to the precise geographical location where specific environmental and social impacts related to raw material extraction take place. The assessment will be carried out for at least 60 raw materials on a global scale, covering biomass from agriculture, fossil fuels, metal ores and industrial minerals.

Implementation

The project will be implemented through three work streams, which follow the logic of footprint calculations. Stream 1 focuses on the extraction of raw materials and related impacts from a territorial perspective. Stream 2 turns to the issue of international trade of raw materials and manufactured products. Work stream 3, building on the results from stream 1 and 2, performs assessments applying a consumption, or footprint, perspective.

Expected results

FINEPRINT will deliver a highly detailed global assessment method to compare various impacts related to raw material extraction across different supply chains. This will allow analysing the distant links between production and consumption, in order to better understand the global drivers of local impacts. The new method will provide a powerful empirical basis to address key sustainability questions related to our material consumption. For example: Is European consumption of textiles contributing to water scarcity in cotton-producing regions? And if yes, which alternative supply chains have a significantly lower negative impact on local water resources? Do our electronic devices contain metal ores from extraction regions with mining conflicts? Or positively: from which regions should initiatives of fair electronic products obtain their metal ores, in order to ensure that they are conflict-free?

For more information, see the project website www.fineprint.global.

Contact:
Stefan Giljum (stefan.giljum@wu.ac.at; +43-1-31336-5755)