With the attention of the global community directed towards the results of the ongoing 26th COP UN Climate Change Conference, momentum for the green transition appears to be at its highest. Following up on a series of announcements made over the past decade—under the declared objective to keep global temperature rise within 1.5 degrees—political leaders at COP26 have already announced the pledge to end and reverse deforestation by 2030, cut greenhouse gas methane emissions by 2030 and shift away from coal.

The World Resources Forum Association is pleased to assist to this increased momentum and bring to the attention of the international community 5 main takeaway messages from the World Resources Forum 2021 Conference (WRF2021). WRF2021 took place on October 12-14, under the theme of “A Green Deal for Sustainable Resources”, in a hybrid format, with sessions taking place online, in Switzerland and in Ghana, which involved over 950 participants from 100+ countries.

After three days of plenary sessions, workshops and scientific sessions, these are the main points we urge to be addressed in the decisions being taken at COP26.

1. The extractive sector must move towards responsible mining

The road to a low-carbon future goes through the upscale of green technologies that notoriously require more minerals than their fossil fuel alternatives. As demand for mineral resources will inevitably go up, and such demand will need to be (at least partially) satisfied through extractive activities, it is of paramount importance to decrease the footprint of the extractive sector, whose operations are currently responsible for large social and environmental impacts. Metals mining, in fact, currently accounts for around 10% of greenhouse gas emissions, and between 2000 to 2015, the climate change and health impacts from extraction and production of metals approximately doubled.

Key takeaways:

As WRFA President Bruno Oberle stated in his concluding remarks “the synthesis is that there is no alternative other than responsible mining – all the actors need to join forces to develop in depth in that direction”


2. The upscale of secondary markets and circular economy is vital to provide the resources necessary for a sustainable transition

Over the past years, we have assisted to the continuous rise of waste, with some waste streams growing faster than others. This is the case of e-waste, whose amount is projected to double by 2030. In a global context where the amount of waste generated and the demand for raw materials increase simultaneously, recovering valuable resources out of waste represents a unique opportunity to foster resource security and reduce the demand for virgin raw materials.

Key takeaways:

3. The financial and trading sectors have a central role to play in fostering sustainability in mineral value chains

Actors and institutions involved in the trading of metal & mineral commodities and financial assets play a key role in shaping international commodity markets, which in turn support economic growth in resource-rich countries and facilitate the delivery of raw materials to the global economy. There are increasing calls for commodity related financial transaction and trading actors and institutions, to demonstrate transparency in their operations and evidence their sustainability credentials. Despite recent efforts in developing and promoting monitoring and reporting practices to address the issue, considerable challenges remain with their operationalization, harmonization and credibility.

Key takeaways:


4. A collaborative and systemic mindset is required to ensure that the transition from linear to circular economies is fair and equitable on a global scale

As a growing number of countries state their ambitions to move towards a circular economy, policies and initiatives that take place domestically have far-reaching consequences in a highly integrated world economy, affecting environmental, social and economic outcomes around the world. Currently, very little is known on how domestic policies affect global value chains, resulting in a knowledge gap reflected in current circular economy policy design. Systematically analysing consequences and designing policies to counteract possible negative effects sits at the core of a just and fair global circular economy transition.

Key takeaways:

Based on the 4 main takeaways developed above, here is one final overarching takeaway message from WRF2021:

5. A sustainable and fair transition towards a low-carbon future inevitably relies on meeting the resource requirements for the transition in a way that ensures positive social, economic and environmental outcomes.

As countries design their transition from a fossil fuel to a mineral-based economy, the increased demand for raw materials – especially minerals and metals – runs the risk of posing an excessive burden on people and planet. As clearly stated by UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen in her keynote speech at WRF2021, “we need to understand that even renewable is not without a footprint”.

Alongside the current footprint of the mining sector, other concerns relate to the effects of the transition on middle- and low-income countries whose economies are currently powered by extractive activities. Resource extraction, in fact, plays a dominant role in the economies of 81 countries, which account for a quarter of global GDP and half of the world population, and nearly 70% of those living in extreme poverty.

Therefore, we call political and industry leaders to avoid a tunnel vision solely focused on CO2 emissions and include in the policy decision-making process all the multi-faceted implications related to resource management and use at the core of such a large-scale transition. Establishing equitable and effective processes for harnessing resources, in fact, is necessary to ensure that the transition can deliver long-lasting environmental, economic and social benefits.

This calls for an unprecedented level of international collaboration on a series of interrelated areas, such as mineral resource governance, trade agreements, finance, industry regulations – all of which are necessary in order to facilitate the transition towards sustainable models of production and consumption. The management of natural resources will be a decisive force to shape the outcomes of the green transition, and only an efficient, responsible and fair approach will be able to support the wellbeing of people, the resilience of natural ecosystems and future economic prosperity.


About WRF2021: a multi-stakeholder dialogue putting resources at the core of the global green transition

Co-hosted by the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) and the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation of the Republic of Ghana, WRF2021 focused on the pivotal role that the governance, management and use of natural resources have to play for a sustainable and fair transition towards low-carbon and resilient economies. Based on a holistic approach that evaluates the impacts of resource use along the entire value chain, WRF2021 provided a space for policy-makers, industry, scientists and civil society to come together and discuss how a Green Deal can: