Rethink the value of resources if we are to achieve wellbeing for all within planetary boundaries. This one of the main messages coming out of the WRF23 Conference Report, which is now available online. As the result of inputs from over 75 international organisations, 120 researchers and 150 speakers, the WRF23 Report highlights key policy, business and financial measures across the three focus areas of sufficiency, value chains and digitalisation.
Rethinking Value – Resources for Planetary Wellbeing
The use of natural resources is driving the triple planetary crisis of biodiversity loss, pollution and climate change. The current economic model, relying on ever-increasing demand as a driver of economic growth, is leading humanity to live beyond the limits of a safe operating space. The use of natural resources has more than tripled from 1970. If current trends continue, global material consumption is predicted to double again by 2060 (IPR, Global Resource Outlook 2019). Today, resource extraction and processing are responsible for 80% of biodiversity loss and water stress and 50% of carbon emissions globally.
Against this background, WRF23 focused on the systemic shift required to transform resource use into a driver towards wellbeing for all within planetary boundaries. This encouraged us to rethink the concept of value: what we value, how natural resources are valued, and how we can create and fairly distribute value derived from those resources. This entails profound changes to global production and consumption systems, currently locked in globalized linear value chains, which are unsustainable and unfair through the externalization of environmental and social costs.
Three key transitions with a high potential to drive systems towards sustainability
WRF23 focused on three key transitions with the potential to make resources a driver for shared wellbeing within planetary boundaries. Here is a snapshot of some of the main takeaways highlighted in the conference report.
Sufficiency: from a consumer to a sufficient society
The latest IPCC Report defines sufficiency policies as “a set of measures and daily practices that avoid demand for energy, materials, land and water while delivering wellbeing for all within planetary boundaries”. Sufficiency puts the attention on the demand for resources, making it a core element of sustainability and linking decreasing resource consumption with meeting the needs of all. This opens the conversation to issues of social equity, international justice and its role in climate mitigation policies.
Value chains: from extractive to regenerative value chains
Current production and consumption systems are pushing planetary boundaries beyond their equilibrium. The transition from extractive to regenerative value chains requires rethinking how resources are sourced, used and moved, and how value is distributed. How can we make this major shift towards regenerative value chains, enabling fairness, resilience and sustainability?
Digitalisation: from growth to purpose
Depending on the purpose with which digital technologies are developed and deployed, digitalisation can be a double-edged sword for sustainability. How can we ensure that digital technologies become a powerful force for sustainable transformation, while managing and minimising the risks associated with them?
Explore all the takeaways and suggested measures for change
Curious to learn more about the takeaways above? Explore the full conference report, which also includes a list of concrete measures for policy-makers, businesses and the financial sector to make progress towards a sustainable and fair use of natural resources. In the publication, you will also find the summary of some selected sessions organised by partner organisations, a solutions’ corner with inspiring ideas and an overview of all the scientific presentations.
The World Resources Forum 2023 Conference ‘Rethinking Value – Resources for Planetary Wellbeing‘ took place on 4-6 September 2023 in Geneva, Switzerland and online. The three-day event welcomed over 500 participants in Geneva and 1000 online, including international policy-makers, scientists, UN organisations, financial actors and civil society organisations. The event was hosted by the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment, and supported by main partners International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Empa, International Resource Panel (IRP) and ETH-Rat. WRF23 was organised back-to-back with the UNEP Global Intergovernmental Meeting on Minerals and Metals (7-8 September, 2023). The WRF Conference will be back for the next edition in 2025.