If the world is to deliver on climate change and attain the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development objectives, we must optimize our endowments of natural resources. A resilient and sustainable supply of natural resources, including critical raw minerals, is essential for sustainable energy, mobility and digital transitions. To deliver on quality of life aspirations worldwide will require integrated solutions that deliver on the environmental, economic, and social dimensions. Governments, industry, researchers, and civil society must play their role by cooperating and sharing best practices and their vast knowledge and experience.
The main messages that came out of the EU Raw Materials Week 2021 event on "The Future of Sustainable Raw Materials Management in Europe", jointly organized by the European Commission, EuroGeoSurveys and UNECE on 18 November, was on the importance of securing the supply of raw material for sustainable development. Participants in the event discussed the role of the United Nations Framework Classification for Resources (UNFC) and the United Nations Resource Management System (UNRMS) in providing an integrated framework for harmonized information and management of the raw material endowments.
"The European Green Deal sets out a roadmap for making the EU's economy sustainable by turning climate and environmental challenges into opportunities across all policy areas and making the needed transitions just and inclusive for all", observed Peter Handley, Head of Unit, Energy Intensive Industries - Raw Materials, DG GROW, European Commission. "Managing Europe's natural resources sustainably has never been more pressing, including looking at domestic resources and also moving towards a circular economy paradigm through pragmatic policies and workable solutions."
UNFC and UNRMS both support the goals of the European Green Deal. UNFC, through financial reporting, integrated with environmental and social governance and UNRMS by providing the principles, standards, guidelines, and best practices for the responsible development of resources. The European Commission has successfully tested the application of UNFC to integrate information on critical raw materials, including battery raw materials.
"Earlier this year, the UN Secretary-General issued a policy brief on Transforming the Extractive Industries for Sustainable Development, " said Ms. Olga Algayerova, UNECE Executive Secretary. "The global call to action in the policy brief includes UNECE's 5-point agenda on considerations for a social contract on natural resources; a sustainable financing taxonomy; sustainable resource management using UNFC and UNRMS; transparency and traceability of the minerals value chain; and comprehensive strategic environmental assessments."
Several experts provided application examples and shared experiences on UNFC and UNRMS. Austria, Finland, Hungary and Sweden successfully tested the application of UNFC for diverse resources. "The analysis of social, environmental, economic and technical maturity aspects can be presented in just three numbers using UNFC," remarked Erika Ingvald, Head of Division, Geological Survey of Sweden.
The experience of the African Union in mandating the use of UNFC based African Minerals and Energy Classification and Management System (UNFC-AMREC) was highlighted. With this initiative, Africa intends to transform its mineral sector into a source of opportunity that can benefit its people.
Accelerating the push towards the sustainable supply of raw materials and a circular economy will require further strengthening of the common standards and availability of shared data and information. To reach this goal, further stress will be given to implementing UNFC and UNRMS at all levels in the EU.
For more information on UNFC and UNRMS: https://unece.org/sustainable-energy/unfc-and-sustainable-resource-management.