Geneva, 24 October 2019 Participants of the World Resources Forum 2019 are calling for ambitious international rules for mineral resources management. A low-carbon and resource efficient economy requires an uptake in technologies such as electric vehicles, renewable energy, and digitalization. Without improved governance it will be impossible to ensure proper provision of the resources needed. This was the main conclusion of this year’s edition of this annual multistakeholder dialogue event, held in Geneva from 23-24 October.
WRF 2019 and its back-to-back events were attended by well over 300 participants coming from some 50 countries and international organisations, including the United Nations, European Commission, EIT Raw Materials, World Business Council for Sustainable Development, Club of Rome, US Chambers of Commercie, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and small and large individual companies, development cooperation and research organisations. The Minister of Environment, Science, Technology, and Innovation of Ghana, H.E. Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, announced that WRF2020 will be held in Accra, Ghana next year.
Evidence shows, so was stated, that today’s governance framework is not fit for purpose. The many existing standards governing the management of mineral resources do not bring the expected results at the scale and the speed needed. To address the scale and urgency of the challenge, participants called for the international community to develop ambitious international rules regarding the management of mineral resources in order to close the governance gaps, in alignment with the SDG and Paris Agreement.
WRF 2019 opened with a tribute to prof. (Bio) Friedrich Schmidt-Bleek, who had sadly passed in the summer of this year. He was remembered by WRF Founding President Xaver Edelmann, for his charisma and important influence on raising awareness and calling for the urgency of action on resource management. “He was our own “Greta”, said WRF Managing Director Bas de Leeuw, referring to Bio’s numerous calls upon governments “to stop talking and start doing”, already many years ago.
WRF President, Bruno Oberle, stated that there are many more major disasters around the world than what we hear about. He referred to the Global Resources Outlook, published by UNEP’s International Resource Panel earlier this year, and recalled that the extraction and processing of natural resources contributes to around 50% of climate change impacts and up to 90% of biodiversity loss. Remarkable achievements were presented from around the world. In particular participants were impressed by all aspects of the sustainable agenda of Ghana and other countries in Africa.
The United Nations Framework Classification for Resources (UNFC) was welcomed for embracing the principles of comprehensive resource recovery, circularity, zero harm and zero waste. UN Environment vision, supporting positive change in the extractive sector’s governance and business practices, was seen as promising. The current political momentum and the resolutions adopted at the fourth UN Environment Assembly in March 2019 provide the foundations for this process and need to be further developed and anchored in the dialogue process until the fifth UN Environment Assembly in 2021. The ambitious plans of the new European Commission and other regional bodies were seen as signs of strong multilateral political leadership as well.
Many observed that the circular economy concept should encompass full sustainability, of which human resources, equity and jobs are essential elements. Promising new regional initiatives, such as the new circular economy network in Africa need to be supported by the international community. There is a need to respect country values and long-term historical perspectives, as also developments in Latin America show.
Businesses are increasingly demonstrating that they are aware of the supply and sustainability challenges regarding natural resources and they want to engage with voluntary initiatives and standards. Some actively call on the public sector to provide long-term objectives and to level the playing field. Environmentally sound and socially responsible models are compatible with a successful business. Putting incentives in place can encourage businesses to adopt better practices, and governments can step in to help level the playing field to drive positive change. The present generation should step up investments in the future environment. Examples are a CO2 tax, tax reductions on sustainable investment, and reforming the pension system with the sustainability goals in mind.
Workshops and events on resources management
A large number of workshops and back-to-back events were held by WRF partner organisations. EIT Raw Materials organised together with UNECE and the ESM Foundation a short course for policy leaders in the public and private sector to work towards better management and governance of oil, gas and mineral resources and to contribute to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals. The Swiss National Research Programme “Sustainable Economy: resource-friendly, future-oriented, innovative” organised a workshop on trade relations and sustainability. UN Environment organised sessions on respectively circular economy for electronics, sustainable lifestyles and lifecycle thinking.
UN Environment also launched the UNEP LCA Awards Scheme, promoted and managed in cooperation with the WRF Secretariat. The German Bilateral Development Cooperation Agency, GIZ, focused on resource-efficiency in India and emerging countries, and on sustainable e-waste management in Ghana. The Swiss Federal Office for Environment and Nature (FOEN) held events on supply chain management, together with the Global Compact Network, and the Swiss Trade and Shipping Organization (STSA) introduced their approach to implement the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in Commodity Trading.
WRF Scientific chairs prof. Christian Ludwig (Paul Scherrer Institute/EPFL) and prof. Sonia Valdivia (WRFA) presented the scientific awards.They were awarded to Dola Oluteye, Tender Pangilinan Ferolin, Valeria Superti, Lorena Toledo and Andreas Manhart.
The conference was all vegetarian, offered fresh Swiss tap water and local drinks, avoided plastic cuttlery, was almost paperless, and offered free public transport. As was announced by WRF conference coordinator Jessica Clement the participants of WRF 2019 caused 169.52 tCO2e, which is equivalent to 38 Olympic swimming pools full of carbon dioxide gas. The emissions stem mainly from travel (apart from accomodation, meals and venue), and were calculated by South Pole. The Lanco Natural Gas Power project in India was chosen to compensate the emissions.
The meeting was moderated by Bas de Leeuw (WRF) and Barbara Dubach (engageability/NRP 73).
The meeting report with detailed reports of plenary sessions, workshop outcomes and other conference materials will be published over the next few months.
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