Global trade is increasingly being challenged by observations of growing burden shifting, in particular of environmental problems. This paper presents the first worldwide calculations of shifted burden based on material flow indicators, in particular direct and indirect physical trade balances. This study covers the period between 1962 and 2005 and includes between 82 and 173 countries per year. The results show that indirect trade flow volumes have increased to around 41 billion tonnes in 2005. The traded resources with the highest share of associated indirect flows are iron, hard coal, copper, tin and increasingly palm oil. Regarding the burden balance between regions, Europe is the biggest shifter whereas Australia and Latin America are the largest takers of environmental burden due to resource extraction. To evaluate the findings from a global perspective, the results are analysed in terms of resource flow induced environmental pressure related to a country's land area in terms of total and per capita area. Resource endowment and population density seem to be more relevant in determining the physical trade balance, including indirect flows, than income level.
Wuppertal Institut für Klima, Umwelt, Energie