Climate Change -
Extractive Industries -
Resource Efficency @COP23
Two-part specialist side event to UNFCCC’s COP23
Bonn, November 08th 2017
On November 8th the COP23 side event ”Climate Change – Extractive Industries – Resource Efficieny” took place in Bonn. Over 100 experts participated on-site, while more than 800 viewers joined via the online livestream.
The overall topic discussed, was the connection between climate change and mining and how to reduce resource intensity in our economies.
The central question of the morning part was whether we can or rather should “Leave it in the Ground?”. “It” meaning extractive resources. While some details in this debate remain open, it became clear quickly that the answer has to be “it depends”.
On the one hand, certain mineral and metal resources are essential buildings blocks for green technologies such as renewable energies and electric mobility. With regards to a successful energy and mobility transition, it will be difficult to “leave them in the ground” until reliable technological options are available. When coming to this conclusion, it is essential to address a variety of pressing issues along the mineral and metal supply chain to make mining more sustainable. These include governance and management challenges as well as human rights and environmental risks.
On the other hand, fossil resources contribute heavily to global warming when they are extracted and when they are burned. Therefore, coal, oil and natural gas need to be “left in the ground” in order to contribute to the long-term goal to decarbonize the global economy. However, central questions are still up for debate in deciding when, where and how much of them could be left untouched.
There is still a huge gap between the ambition to reach the 2°C / 1,5°C goal and the measures foreseen in the (I)NDCs submitted by the different countries for COP21 in Paris. Much more ambitious steps will be necessary to keep global warming beneath this threshold. Against this background, part two of the side event titled “Mind the (ambition) gap! Potentials of Resource Efficiency for Mitigating Climate Change” focused on the relationship between resource use and greenhouse-gas emissions.
As point of departure, it was highlighted that according to the International Resource Panel natural resource use will more than double from 85 to 186 billion tons from 2015 to 2050 in a business as usual scenario. Combining resource efficiency and ambitious climate policy leads to a 28% reduction in natural resource use globally in 2050 and a 60% reduction of GHG emissions in 2050 compared to 2015. This contributes at the same time to a 1.5% increase the value of economic activity globally. There is therefore a clear rationale for a much more resource efficient use of materials to mitigate climate change.
In their inputs to the discussion, the speakers illustrated the close relationship for example between the extraction and processing of metal ores with GHG emissions and which pathways a country like Germany could follow to achieve until 2050 a far reaching decarbonisation of its economy. The German Resource Efficiency Programme, ProgRess, was considered an important step in this development process.
Emerging economies like India are facing huge challenges having to satisfy the demands of a growing population, providing for example infrastructure and housing. The building sector therefore plays a key-role for a more efficient use of resources and cutting GHG emissions. With the establishment of the Indian Resource Panel, the government took an important step to create a nodal point for mainstreaming resource efficiency policies.
The discussion reconfirmed that resource efficiency is an underestimated potential that can contribute to raise the level of ambition of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) to mitigate global climate change. At the same time, a more efficient use of raw materials in production can contribute to enhancing competitiveness of companies and securing jobs so that there is a potential for a triple win.
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