Increase Resource Productivity to Fight Poverty and Climate Change, Club of Rome Author Says at WRF 2017

WRF 2017
“Stop using coal, oil and gas”,Jørgen Randers

Geneva, 31 October 2017 Poverty and climate change are the key challenges to be tackled in the coming decades. Increasing resource productivity can help achieve these goals. This was the main message of the Norwegian scientist Jørgen Randers, co-author of the first report to the Club of Rome (Limits to Growth, 1972), to the annual World Resources Forum, held in the Swiss “UN Capital” Geneva last week.

WRF 2017
Valentin Zellweger

“Stop using coal, oil and gas” was the clear recommendation of Randers to the more than 450 participants from 50 countries who had gathered to discuss how to accelerate the “resource revolution”.

The conference was opened by Ambassador Valentin Zellweger, the Swiss Permanent Representative to the United Nations offices in Switzerland.

Marc Chardonnens, Director, Swiss Federal Office for the Environment, suggested to start reflecting on establishing a UN convention on raw material or resource efficiency.

Science was seen as essential for understanding the challenges of natural resource management in a systemic way, and for communicating the solutions to decision-makers in governments and business as well as to society at large. As there is no guarantee that good science will be taken up, scientists and researchers need to make the effort of “selling the sizzle not the sausage”. According to the British marketing and communication expert Solitaire Townsend (founder of Futerra) one should focus on the functional, emotional and social benefits for decision-makers and society.

In times of #fakenews and perhaps a dwindling reputation of science trust should be rebuilt, by providing accurate, relevant and empowering science, whereby transparency and humility are important as well, as Global Footprint founder Mathis Wackernagel and German Federal Environment Agency Director Harry Lehmann stated.

WRF 2017
Anders Wijkman

A business panel moderated by Climate KIC and Club of Rome chair Anders Wijkman, also a former Member of the European Parliament, concluded that the transition to a circular economy provides an important business opportunity. Metals and cement industries are, among other sectors, well placed for playing a constructive role, as speakers from LafargeHolcim and the International Council on Mining & Metals ICMM stated. However, the circular economy concept needs to take the social dimension into account and an overarching policy framework is needed to create a level playing field and allow internalisation of costs. Secondary raw materials need to have lower prices than primary materials.

UN Environment’s Steven Stone launched new guidelines for providing sustainability information, which aim to guide the provision of effective, trustworthy claims about the sustainability performance of products to consumers. Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Joss Blériot presented its New Plastics Economy initiative.

Sustainable Recycling, Raw Materials Market and UN Day

WRF 2017
WRF 2017 Workshop Parade

Partnerships, circular economy, raw materials, inclusive recycling and life cycle thinking were also among the main topics of discussion during the WRF 2017. Furthermore, the World Resource Forum Association presented the key achievements of the Sustainable Recycling Industries (SRI) programme. This initiative, launched in 2012, aims at building a cohesive framework for encouraging sustainable e-waste recycling in developing countries. SRI presented some of the success stories in their six partner countries, including Colombia, which was the first country in Latin America to implement a long-term policy strategy for sustainable e-waste management.

A H2020 Raw Materials Market presented progress made with this European research and coordination program, and identified ways to strengthen the cooperation among its project consortia. Discussions will be continued during the EC organised Raw Materials Week in Brussels (November 7-10, 2017) and FORAM18 (Nancy, June 27, 2018).

Peder Jensen, IRP Secretary

At the occasion of International UN Day UN Environment hosted a 10-year anniversary coctail of its International Resource Panel, which was launched in Budapest, 2007. Panel members Potocnyk, Wijkman and Ekins were among the speakers, as well as current IRP Secretary Peder Jensen and former IRP Secretary Bas de Leeuw.

The WRF 2017 conference was carbon-neutral. The 534 tons CO2 emitted by conference participants were compensated via the South Pole Group in the “Bac Lieu” windfarm project in Vietnam.

Registered participants have been invited to provide their comments and suggestions until the 15th of November to the WRF Secretariat, after which a final version will be published as well as an official meeting report, including the outcomes of the plenary and workshop sessions.

WRF 2017 Key Messages can be found here (PDF).

A “tweeting report” has already been published, providing an overview of some 1,000 tweets that were published by team and participants during the event.

A WRF 2017 Photo Gallery with hundreds of photos of the event, taken by the official conference photographer Robert Stuermer can be downloaded, as well as pictures taken and shared by  conference participants on the social media.

World Resources Forum 2019 will be organised in Antwerp, Belgium, February 24-27, 2019, as was revealed by Lieze Cloots and Jan Verheyen of the Public Waste Agency of Flanders, OVAM.

Background of WRF 2017

This year’s World Resources Forum (WRF 2017) addressed the topic of “Accelerating the Resource Revolution”, highlighting the importance of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement as calls for action. Over 120 state-of-the-art scientific contributions were presented and methodologies and success stories were shared during the 16 workshops organized by international institutions.

Bas de Leeuw

Poverty and Climate Change were stressed as the key challenges to be tackled today during WRF 2017 discussions. While ambitious global targets addressing the climate change challenge represent huge investments, the smart use of resources can contribute to offsetting the costs. According to the International Resource Panel (IRP), resource efficiency could bring annual economic benefits of USD 2 trillion by 2050. Local crises concerning the access to resources remain a challenge for communities and appropriate governance and leadership are essential to allow inclusive development.

Eminent scientist in the field of resource management at the IRP, hosted by UN Environment, shared insights about the ten years of progress made. Over 23 authoritative reports have been published on the topics decoupling, cities, environmental impacts, water, metals, land and soils, and food.

Sustainable Public Procurement (SPP) as well as reliable and credible product sustainability information for consumers can have a big impact and help scale up the circular economy. In this regard, UN Environment and the International Trade Centre launched their Guidelines for Providing Product Sustainability Information for companies and governments. These were developed under the 10-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns (10YFP).

The event offered four days of discussions, networking and side events. See more information about the WRF 2017 programme and full list of speakers on the event website.

About the World Resources Forum (WRF)

WRF is widely recognized for its global and multidisciplinary character, gathering participants from all over the world and offering international players a platform to walk the talk. WRF was born as an initiative from the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa), supported by the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN), Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Board and the German Federal Environment Agency (UBA), amongst others; and by an international Board including Xaver Edelmann (former Empa), Bruno Oberle (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), former Director FOEN), Anders Wijkman (Co-President, Club of Rome), Alice Kaudia (Environment Secretary, Ministry of Environment & Natural Resources of Kenya) and Janez Potocnik (former European Commissioner for the Environment).

The flagship conferences are backed by a Scientific Committee, chaired by Prof. Christian Ludwig (Paul Scherrer Institute and EPFL) and Prof. Sonia Valdivia (Program Manager, WRF), and assisted by Cecilia Matasci (Scientific Officer). WRF 2017 was organised by a team of WRF and Empa staff, consultants and volunteers, led by WRF Project Manager María Lucía Híjar.

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