Heatwaves and droughts are drying rivers and freshwater sources, spreading desertification and accelerating soil erosion. Food production is under severe threat everywhere, raising the spectre of famine and mass starvation. As nature gasps for survival, people scramble to get hold of diminishing natural resources. To turn the centuries-old practices of "exploitative" natural resource use on its head and help build a peaceful and prosperous world, the UN has approved the new UN Resource Management System (UNRMS).
UNRMS, a toolkit for the integrated and sustainable management of natural resources, was presented today at COP27 at the side event: “Accelerating the circular economy agenda to tackle climate change and foster economic transformation”. UNRMS will help countries use their natural resources efficiently, obtaining good social, environmental and economic outcomes.
Climate action means a total change to the paradigm of unrestricted fossil fuel use and unabated use of natural resources. Today, less than 10 per cent of the materials we consume are recycled. Between 1970 and 2017, the extraction of minerals worldwide more than tripled, reaching 92 billion tons annually. If current trends continue, the world will require 190 billion tons of materials per annum by 2060.
We need a radical change in how we consume, move around, manufacture products, and develop new technologies such as digitalization. Building circularity in mineral value chains - during extraction, production, and consumption - can help reduce pressures on extracting more resources.
Identifying the resources needed for the low-carbon economy
The low-carbon transition requires a lot of natural resource inputs, including wind, solar and geothermal energy. Massive quantities of rare earth and critical minerals are necessary for low-carbon technologies. We need water, non-polluting fertilizer and agrochemicals for food production. Today's challenge is producing, using and reusing natural resources while maintaining the sensitive ecosystem equilibrium.
UNRMS, as a unifying framework for the integrated management of resources, is based on the globally accepted United Nations Framework Classification for Resources (UNFC), which has incorporated a unique methodology of assessing resources through the triple lenses of environmental-social-economic viability, technical feasibility and confidence in estimates. The UNECE Expert Group on Resource Management (EGRM) approved UNRMS at its meeting on 25 October. UNRMS offers countries, industries, the financial community and civil society a new way to manage resources as an unlimited public good. It helps move from a linear, fragmented and unsustainable approach of blind extraction to a responsible, balanced, and value-added model. Resources are not just commodities. They are, instead, services that can usher in peace and prosperity.
“The United Nations Framework Classification for Resources (UNFC) offers tools for the management of anthropogenic resources (secondary resources). UNRMS has circularity at its core and will support member States in increasing the circularity of resource use that is indispensable to reduce our carbon and ecological footprint,” said UNECE Executive Secretary Olga Algayerova in Sharm El Sheikh.
UNFC and UNRMS are being deployed worldwide
The African Mineral and Energy Resources Classification and Management System (AMREC) and the Pan-African Resource Reporting Code (PARC), developed by the African Minerals Development Centre (AMDC)https://unece.org/media/sustainable-energy/UNFC-and-Sustainable-Resource-Management/news/365289 of the African Union Commission with technical support from UNECE, and being rolled out throughout the continent, are based on UNFC and the principles on which UNRMS is based.
In the same vein, the recent approval of the UNFC Guidance for Europe will facilitate decision-making by stakeholders related to raw material stocks and flows in Europe.
Several Latin American nations are also engaged in capacity-building initiatives on good practices to assess potential geothermal and mineral projects based on UNFC and UNRMS.
Finally, the recent endorsement of the Bridging Documents between China’s Standards for Classification of Mineral Resources and Mineral Reserves and Petroleum Resources/Reserves and UNFC will help promote the sustainable development of energy resources and encourage broader international collaboration.
For further information on UNFC and UNRMS, visit ￼https://unece.org/sustainable-energy/sustainable-resource-management.