Sustainable development depends on optimal and responsible production and use of natural resources. Today's resource patterns are unsustainable in terms of their environmental and societal impact and ensuring resource availability now and in the future. Developments in sustainable resource management, including in the supply of critical raw materials, will determine the capacity of countries to attain the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The roundtable on "A Global Framework for Sustainable Resource Management" at the 30th Session of the Committee on Sustainable Energy, 22 September 2021, Geneva, focused on exchanging ideas and progress on developing and implementing the United Nations Resource Management System (UNRMS). UNRMS is based on the existing United Nations Framework Classification for Resources (UNFC). A global network of International Centres of Excellence on Sustainable Resource Management (ICE-SRMs) is proposed to support this initiative.
Opening the roundtable, Mr. Mahmoud Mohieldin, UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy on Financing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, stressed that if countries are to attain the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), they must optimize management of their natural resources. There is a "dark side" to the sustainable development of natural resources, exacerbated by unhealthy competition among stakeholders. The UN Secretary General's Policy Brief on Transforming Extractive Industries for Sustainable Development focuses on a comprehensive social resource contract that calls for a total alignment among the SDGs and the industry's Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) initiatives.
Mr. Peter Handley, Head of Unit, Energy Intensive Industries - Raw Materials, DG GROW, European Commission noted that the European Union (EU) takes advantage of global frameworks such as UNFC and UNRMS. EU and G7 initiatives on critical raw materials consider transparency to be paramount in addressing sustainability concerns.
Ms. Karen Hanghøj, Director, British Geological Survey, UK, reiterated the need for a global framework to manage the complexities in multi-resource use such as hydrogen, geological storage of carbon dioxide, solar, wind, geothermal and nuclear power. To address these complexities, UNRMS could be tailored to fit regional or national requirements. Ms. Hanghøj underlined that UK is committed to global cooperation through the potential establishment of an ICE-SRM.
Building on the African Mining Vision (AMV), the African Union's Specialized Technical Committee of the Ministers of Trade, Industries, and Minerals on 2 September 2021 adopted UNFC and UNRMS tailored for Africa as the continental system for the implementation of the AMV. Implementation of the system will be a crucial responsibility of the African Mineral Development Centre, which will be headquartered in the Republic of Guinea.
Other countries are taking action to implement UNRMS through the establishment of ICE-SRMs. The Russian Federation is moving forward to open an ICE-SRM to support, amongst other activities, the roll-out of "clean" technologies by the energy and mining industry. The Russian Federation also requested that a comparison of the carbon footprint of all energy sources being included as part of the UNRMS toolkit.
Mexico, aware of the gap between expectations and reality on the ground, has conducted a pilot study of the application of UNFC and UNRMS in the petroleum sector. Application to the minerals sector will be a similar pilot study. These pilot studies provide insights for tailoring UNRMS for Mexico and the entire Latin American region. Establishing an ICE-SRM will benefit the region in progressing towards sustainable resource use patterns and lessening social conflicts.
China has conducted several case studies to apply UNFC and UNRMS and is now progressing towards establishing an ICE-SRM. The effort will boost finding nature-based solutions to transform resources industries as engines of sustainable development.
The Slovenian Geological Survey is considering the establishment of a Europe-based ICE-SRM to facilitate European and global cooperation, knowledge sharing and capacity-building in the area of raw materials. Should it proceed, this initiative would be part of the future Geological Service for Europe.
"If the world is to meet its climate objectives and delivery quality of life for all communities, we will need global, principles-based action to develop a coherent framework for resource industries," said Ms. Olga Algayerova. UNECE has proposed a 5-point plan that integrates: socio-environmental-economic contract to operate; sustainable finance taxonomy; sustainable resource management system; supply chain traceability; and strategic environmental assessment.
Global energy and other transitions will drive rising demand for natural resources; adoption of UNRMS by the mining and other sectors will help reduce attendant environmental impacts, pollution, and social risks and enhance circularity.
For more information on UNFC and UNRMS: https://unece.org/sustainable-energy/unfc-and-sustainable-resource-management.