Climate change discussions often overlook the “central role” played by the excessive extraction and use of natural resources, the World Resources Forum (WRF) says.
Unsustainable extraction, use and disposal of resources are having “detrimental impacts” on people and the planet, WRF says. It continues this is driving climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution.
WRF claims the energy transition and growth in the infrastructure stock globally risk making environmental challenges even worse.
The topic is set to be the central focus of two events being hosted back-to-back in Geneva: The World Resources Forum 2023 and The UNEP Global Intergovernmental Meeting on Minerals and Metals.
At the 5th UN Environment Assembly last year in Nairobi, delegates adopted a resolution, initiated by Switzerland together with Argentina, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, and Senegal, on environmental aspects of minerals and metals management.
Member States stressed “the need for enhanced action to support the environmental sustainability management of minerals” along their full lifecycle, from extraction until end-of-life. Since then, Switzerland has been co-chairing the intergovernmental process together with Pakistan.
If international governments and industry leaders do not source and use these resources with long-term sustainability in mind, no transition will be green.
Between April and July, the United Nations Environment Programme convened intergovernmental regional consultations with African States, Asia-Pacific States, Eastern European States, Latin American and Caribbean States, and Western European and other States.
The WRF says the global consultation on 7 and 8 September in Geneva will highlight key regional consultation findings and gather additional feedback.
Due to the complexity of global supply chains, finding sustainable solutions requires an “unprecedented level of international cooperation”, which should include public-private partnerships and cross-sectoral collaboration, the WRF says.
The WRF says that multi-level collaboration is needed for the transition to a more resource-efficient and circular economy, which may lead to an increase in the recovery rate of precious minerals and metals, a reduction in global demand for primary resource extraction, and the sustainable use of resources across the whole life cycle.
WRF Managing Director Mathias Schluep, commented: “Minerals and metals are the backbone of major industries, including energy, construction, mobility, and electronics.
“If international governments and industry leaders do not source and use these resources with long-term sustainability in mind, no transition will be green. This issue looms over the climate debate and deserves far greater attention.”