Linking climate change mitigation and resource conservation more closely

5th European Resources Forum discusses synergies

Darstellung eines KonferenzbereichesClick to enlarge
ERF 2020
Source: UBA

The German Environment Agency (UBA) is urging the debate about climate change mitigation not to forget the protection of other resources and raw materials: "We must link climate change mitigation and resource conservation much more closely together. Only with economical and efficient use of raw materials and more recycling will we be able to meet the increased demand for raw materials for the energy turnaround in a sustainable manner. Recycling metals and mineral raw materials more and using them more efficiently overall will also help to protect the climate since fewer greenhouse gases are produced," said UBA's President Dirk Messner.

The UBA study "RESCUE" recently showed for Germany that climate action and resource protection can not only be implemented simultaneously, but that they even support and strengthen each other. RESCUE enables an ambitious climate mitigation and ressource protection policy in Germany, achieving climate neutrality by 2050; at the same time, the demand for raw materials will fall by up to 70 percent. UBA's President Messner called for the two issues to be linked at the European level as well: "If the Green Deal enables us to save raw materials by finally decoupling our demand for raw materials from economic growth, this would be a significant advance in climate change mitigation – and an advantage for Europe in the world's scarce raw materials markets", said Messner.

According to the study "Resource Efficiency and Climate Change" by the International Resource Panel of the United Nations (IRP), 23 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2015 could be traced to materials production. This is 8 percentage points more than in 1995 which is why more efficient material consumption is becoming increasingly important. According to the IRP, there is great potential to do so. Greenhouse gas emissions in housing construction in the G7 countries could be reduced by 40% by 2050 if raw materials were used more efficiently; in car traffic by around 30 to 40%.

Particular attention must be paid to raw materials such as lithium, cobalt or copper, which are important for the transformation of the energy system. Demand for these raw materials is likely to increase, at least temporarily, and the environmental impact of mining and processing will be correspondingly high. The economical and efficient use of these raw materials is therefore just as important as the development and establishment of appropriate recycling capacities, as the RESCUE study has shown.

The synergies between the policy areas of climate change mitigation and resource conservation is the focus of the 5th European Resources Forum (ERF) on 3 November 2020. The ERF has been organised by the German Environment Agency since 2012 and this year, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, is being held entirely as an online conference. Over 800 participants from 50 countries have registered. 80 speakers from all over the world have confirmed their attendance.

A central theme of the English-language conference will be the European Green Deal of the European Commission. "The European green deal - New impulses for a resource efficient Europe in a circular economy" is the title of the central panel discussion of the ERF 2020 with members of the European Parliament and the Co-Chairman Janez Potočnik of the UN International Resource Panel.

The conference will be opened in the morning by UBA President Dirk Messner together with EU Environment Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius, Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze, Dutch Environment Minister Stientje van Veldhoven, and Hans Bruyninckx, Director of the European Environment Agency.

The conference offers a wide range of topics in four plenary sessions and 13 parallel sessions. These cover the role of renewable energies or issues of eco-design, overlaps of the topic of resource conservation in the chemical industry, the health sector or in education, as well as aspects such as sustainable lifestyles, resource-efficient buildings or the ecological water footprint.

Umweltbundesamt Hauptsitz

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