At EU Raw Materials Week, European decision-makers have joined calls for governments to further implement the UN frameworks on sustainable resource management. Given the climate emergency and the urgent need for profound low-carbon transitions, there is a rapidly growing demand for critical raw materials, which need to be mined, used, and reused in a responsible manner without jeopardizing the future of the planet.
The United Nations Framework Classification for Resources (UNFC) is an international scheme for classifying and reporting energy and raw material resources. The framework provides comprehensive information on the viability of projects factoring in environmental-social-economic aspects, technical feasibility, and confidence in estimates. Data can then provide the basis for resource management decisions as part of the United Nations Resource Management System, in alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals.
“At COP27, the importance of critical raw materials is clear: electric vehicles, deep electrification, and renewable energy technologies will require enhanced good practices in mining and recycling of materials”, said Dario Liguti, Director of the Sustainable Energy Division, UNECE. “UNFC and UNRMS are vital aspects of a globally harmonized system towards a low-carbon energy transition.”
Experts and policymakers have called for unprecedented international cooperation amid geopolitical challenges and climate emergencies. UNFC is a policy tool to provide harmonized social, environmental, and economic data for policymakers to create resilient supply chains.
Case studies from governments, academia, and industry in Europe, called for intensified cooperation to establish International Centres of Excellence on Raw Materials in Europe, to expand the scope of existing work of the Expert Group on Resource Management (EGRM) and the Network of Practitioners Europe (NoPE).
"UNFC is a practical tool for policymaking that can bridge data across national departments and jurisdictions", noted Eric Buisson, Mineral Resources Department, Ministry of Ecological Transition, France. The recently published UNFC Guidance Europe assists regional and national authorities to establish and maintain an inventory of European primary and secondary raw materials projects.
UNFC is already playing an active role in EU countries and is commonly used by National Geological Survey Organizations in a number of countries, including Finland and Spain, and as part of the data gathering for the European Critical Raw Materials database.
The long-term goal is to ensure the extractives sector transforms to contribute to the green transition while providing environmental protection as resource-rich countries attain economic and social benefits from extractive activities.
The United Nations is supporting countries to accelerate the implementation of UNFC and UNRMS in Europe as part of the international UN Working Group on Transforming the Extractive Industries for Sustainable Development. The project on development and deployment of UNFC and UNRMS in the UNECE region, funded by the European Union, includes training sessions by UNECE for national administration experts.
“Accomplished UN frameworks are highly versatile and provide a clear indication to investors on project viability”, underlined Massimo Gasparon, Director, European Raw Materials Alliance (ERMA).