Japan advances resource efficiency in the G7
Both at the meeting of environment ministers on 15/16 May 2016 and the G7 summit of Heads of State and Government in Ise-Shima on 26/27 May 2016, representatives of the G7 countries reiterated the importance of resource efficiency for environmental protection, the climate, sustainable development and economic competitiveness. Resource efficiency is now a fixture on the G7 agenda. The G7 adopted its first decisions on this issue under German presidency in 2015. These decisions emphasised the importance of resource efficiency for sustainable development and called on G7 countries to take ambitious steps to promote resource efficiency at national level. They also launched the G7 Alliance on Resource Efficiency as a new forum for cooperation. Japan holds the G7 presidency in 2016.
The G7 environment ministers held their first meeting after a seven-year break in the city of Toyama in Western Japan, where they agreed on substantial steps to promote resource efficiency. They spoke out in favour of decoupling economic growth from natural resource utilisation. The Japanese G7 presidency intends to sharpen the focus on cooperation with emerging and developing countries, which account for the largest increases in resource consumption. This trend is bound to intensify, given the growing middle classes in emerging economies. Hence the urgency of addressing resource efficiency in this context. If rapid growth in resource consumption continues unabated, we would need the resources of two planets in order to cover the demand for food, energy, water, housing and mobility in 2030.
In the "Toyama Framework on Material Cycles", adopted as an annex to the meeting’s communiqué, the environment ministers spell out a number of concrete actions for the years to come. The G7 member countries plan to increasingly integrate resource efficiency in their national policies and strategies, targeting the whole value chain. The countries also envision an expansion of the G7 Alliance on Resource Efficiency, transfer of technology and knowledge to developing and emerging countries and voluntary activities and initiatives within the economic sector and society. These activities should help make consumption more resource-efficient, contribute to the development of a resource-efficient circular economy and support the work required to improve international information resources.
At the G7 environment ministers’ meeting, Germany’s Minister Barbara Hendricks made it plain that neither the 2°C climate target nor the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals can be achieved without a complete turnaround in resource use patterns. She called for more efforts from the economic sector and society as a whole and also expressed her conviction that the G7 must take a leading role in improving resource efficiency.
Recent scientific findings produced by UNEP’s International Resource Panel and the OECD were presented at the environment ministers’ meeting. At the German summit in 2015, the leaders of the G7 nations had requested that the two organisations identify the most promising solutions and approaches for increasing resource efficiency. The International Resource Panel’s analysis shows that effective policies to improve resource efficiency and tackle climate change can reduce global resource extraction by up to 28 per cent and cut global greenhouse gas emissions by around 60 per cent by 2050 while also boosting the growth of the world economy by 1 per cent. The OECD analysed existing policy instruments and found that measures primarily targeted the downstream stages of products’ lifecycles. At the press conference, OECDDeputy Secretary-General Tamaki therefore called on governments to tackle the upstream stages as well, for example product design, production and consumption. He emphasised that this was foremost a matter of integrated policy decisions. He also highlighted the value of international cooperation in this area.
Under Italian presidency in 2017, the G7 will discuss the conclusions to be drawn from the reports and additional efforts necessary to lower resource consumption. In her final statement at the Japan summit, Minister Barbara Hendricks stressed the necessity to significantly step up efforts, not only at national level, but also globally, to preserve the planet’s capacity for regeneration in the future. The German government therefore plans to place the issue of resource efficiency on the agendas of other international bodies such as the G20.
G7 Alliance for resource efficiency launched in Berlin
On 2 October 2015 the Alliance for Resource Efficiency was launched in Berlin. It was attended by high ranking officials and received a lot of attention from politically interested audiences, civil society and scientific circles. The Alliance was launched on the basis of a decision taken by the heads of state and government of the G7 on 7 and 8 June 2015.
The opening meeting focused on an initial exchange on best practices in resource efficiency from the perspective of companies, employees and researchers as well as from the point of view of G7 partner countries. The discussion centred around the wide range of resource efficiency potential, which reduces environmental pollution and simultaneously strengthens sustainability, competitiveness and economic growth. Approximately 150 international guests participated in the event.
In her opening address, Rita Schwarzelühr-Sutter, Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Environment Ministry, pointed to the enormous raw material consumption during the past 30 years. "20 percent of the global population consumes 80 percent of the extracted minerals and metals. We cannot and must not continue like this." She called for a closer international cooperation in the field of resource efficiency and a rapid global sharing of best approaches to solutions.
The G7 Alliance was launched as a voluntary forum for the sharing of knowledge and the establishment of information networks to meet this particular purpose. The annex of the summit declaration includes an extensive catalogue on resource efficiency topics for which the Alliance could outline future options to assist governments in making sounder decisions.
During the German G7 presidency it became possible for the first one to place resource efficiency on the agenda as a focus of discussions. The heads of state and government came out in favour of ambitious steps towards increasing resource efficiency. Apart from the decision on the Alliance, they also gave a mandate to UNEP's International Resource Panel (IRP) to draw up a synthesis report.
The purpose of this report is to highlight the most effective potential and list the most promising solutions. In their summit declaration the heads of state and government also asked the OECD to underpin the synthesis report by giving political guidance.
The G7 play an important role in strengthening resource efficiency. They can serve as an example to emerging economies that resource efficiency pays off - in both economic and social terms. The International Resource Panel presented an interesting scenario on this topic. If industrialised countries were to halve their per capita resource consumption and emerging economies and developing countries were to increase their resource consumption to this halved level, overall global resource consumption would increase by 40 percent.
This message must quickly be conveyed to the fast growing emerging economies because investments in resource efficiency, i.e. in resource efficient products and production processes will secure the livelihood of future generations.
On 30 September and 1 October a workshop on multilateral cooperation in the field of resource efficiency took place as a prequel to the opening event of the Alliance. The event was organised by the following international organisations: the International Resource Panel (IRP), the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the International Labour Office (ILO), the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the 10-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production (10YFP), the World Trade Organization (WTO), the World Economic Forum (WEF), the World Bank - International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and representatives of all G7 delegations.
The aim of the workshop was to develop ways on how to spread successful initiatives and launch new cooperative action so as to boost international cooperation in the field of resource efficiency. During the German G7 Presidency further workshops will be held within the framework of the Alliance for Resource Efficiency.
On 29 and 30 October 2015 the Federal Environment Ministry and its UK counterpart will organise a workshop on industrial symbiosis. Another conference under the auspices of the G7 Alliance on the substitution of non-renewable resources will take place in Berlin on 23 and 24 November 2015. In addition, a workshop on resource efficiency in the automobile sector is planned for some time in spring 2016 in cooperation with the United States and Japan.
Japan, furthermore, plans to hold a workshop on bilateral cooperation at the end of February. The upcoming Japanese Presidency already announced that it will keep resource efficiency as a focus on the agenda during its 2016 Presidency and that it will carry on the G7 Alliance. Even after such a short time it has become clear that the G7 Alliance is developing into a thriving, dynamic and lively forum with a promising future.
Recommendations of the B7 to the G7
A B7 summit was held on 19 and 20 May 2015 within the framework of Germany's G7 Presidency. The "B7 Business Summit" format was launched in 2007 at the initiative of the BDI. In this body, the presidents and chairs of the respective business and industry associations meet at least once a year to discuss various issues from a business perspective just before the government summit. The central positions of the international business community are then communicated to the heads of state and government in a joint statement. The recommendations of B7 were presented to the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany in Berlin on 20 May 2015.
Proposals from business
On the topic of resource efficiency, the business and industry associations explicitly advocate a sparing and efficient use of resources. This should be achieved by promoting research and innovation, support for small and medium-sized enterprises, the creation of an information platform for resource efficiency and resource‑efficient public procurement. It was suggested to promote innovative products, processes and technologies through targeted voluntary national resource partnership programmes of industry and governments. Small and medium-sized enterprises are to receive more support as a key target group through the initiative of the German government "resource efficiency in small and medium‑sized enterprises" (this refers to the alliance for resource efficiency) and a G7 technology radar and information platform. Furthermore, business and industry associations suggest making the Transparency Initiative EITI a global common standard in the future, establishing fair raw materials markets and taking more stringent measures against trade‑distorting resource policies.