WRF2015 and COP21: Interplay of Resource Governance and Climate Change

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St Gallen/Paris, 23 December 2015. Now that the fireworks celebrating conclusion of the historic Paris Climate Agreement are over, it is high time to start developing work-streams to make this agreement work. The agreement, endorsed by 195 countries, sets out a comprehensive list of global action areas to cut greenhouse gas emissions and reduce the impact of climate change: mitigation techniques, technology transfer, global stocktake, financing mechanisms and capacity building. World Resources Forum Secretariat welcomes the global consensus that was reached in tackling this urgent problem and will continue working on programmes and activities which contribute to mitigation and adaptation to climate change.

At World Resources Forum 2015 in Davos that took place two months prior to COP21, over 600 representatives of government, business, scientific, development and civil sectors from more than 100 countries worldwide engaged in discussions, roundtables and workshops around the subject of Circular Economy as the model for sustainable national growth and business operations. Circular Economy, which by definition produces no waste or pollution, would enable reuse and recycling of materials used for economic growth and thus reduce resource depletion, environmental pollution and land degradation. These processes exacerbate and aggravate the adverse impact on societies and ecosystems that climate change is creating, whether it is accelerated desertification caused by rising temperatures and land degradation, or river ecosystems going extinct due to warming waters combined with toxic waste coming from industrial sector extracting or processing metals and fossil fuels, or whole communities suffering from chronic lung diseases caused by these processes. Successful adaptation to climate change goes hand in hand with sound governance of natural resources at all stages of their life-cycle, from source to sink.

Throughout 2015, the importance of sustainable governance of natural resources was highlighted at all high-level global gatherings, in particular at COP21 in Paris, UN Summit for the Adoption of Post-2015 Development Agenda in New York and G7 Summit in Schloss Elmau. World Resources Forum at Davos was entirely devoted to various aspects of global resource governance. Decoupling of economic growth from resources use was underscored, as was the need for development of stronger cross-border links between the financial and techno-industrial sectors. Direct links between climate change and resource governance were noted in the construction sector. The built environment is not only the most important end-user of many materials. In addition, through combustion of fuels or use of fossil fuel-based electricity during the use phase, it is also the biggest energy consumer. This leads to substantial direct and indirect emissions of greenhouse gases and to climate change.

Built environment is responsible for over 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Thus in order to keep “the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above preindustrial levels and pursu[e] efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above preindustrial levels”, effective solutions are urgently needed in the built environment. Built environment was addressed at length during COP 21 and many of its side events. Climate change and the resource depletion issues were considered jointly in order to avoid burden shifting and negative feedback loops. Action will have to be taken at various levels: from the international to the local (city) level.

The upcoming regional World Resources Forum Latin America and the Caribbean 2016 will focus on sustainable built environment. Jointly organized with the Green Building Council Costa Rica and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), it will take place back-to-back with the International Sustainable Building Congress 2016 on May 17-20, 2016 in San Jose, Costa Rica. The main themes of the conference will include: Resource efficiency policies; Sustainable business and financing; Bioeconomy – priority resources; Sustainable and inclusive cities and buildings; and Sustainable lifestyles and education. First results of the pilot project of WRF on the interaction of resource consumption and CO2 emissions in the city of St Gallen, Switzerland will be unveiled at the event.

With any questions about World Resources Forum 2016, please contact the WRF Secretariat. For any enquiries about the Pilot Project on Resource Consumption and CO2 emissions in St Gallen, contact our Scientific Officer, Dr Cecilia Matasci.

Written by Angel Versetti, for World Resources Forum.