WRF 2013 – sizzling event with political outcomes

Solitaire SexDavos, 9 October 2013 WRF 2013 has come to an end. Over 400 participants enjoyed three days of political debate, creative brainstorming, scientific discussions, passionate talks in the corridors, constructing new projects with new partners, hanging out with each other, admiring arts, engaging in table football, and catching marmots. That was what WRF 2013 will be remembered for. A sizzling  platform for young and old, men and women, of all cultures and many (53) countries.

Annan Podium

Countries should annually report on how their economies are developing with respect to resource efficiency. Engagement of not only UN institutions but also the civil society is necessary for achieving transparency and accountable monitoring. Reforms in the financial sector – which is seen as disconnected from the real economy – and fiscal and behavioural policies targeted at company and household level were recommended. Taxes should shift away from renewable resources and labour to fossil fuels. A tenfold increase of resource productivity was regarded as feasible by fiscal reforms and other financial incentives.

These are the main conclusions of the draft chair’s summary of the World Resources Forum (WRF), the Swiss based multi stakeholder platform on global resource management. Members of the European Parliament, UNEP’s International Resource Panel, government and non-governmental delegates from over 50 countries, including leading scientists of engineering and social sciences, were among the experts who debated on international resource governance during the annual 3-day conference in Davos.

Vision 2050: Consumers should not consume more than 6 tonnes per year

Incentives for reducing per capita resource use in high consumption countries, for instance to 6 tonnes per capita by 2050, could be implemented by a group of willing countries, initiating a border tax levied on imports from countries with a per capita resource use higher than that of the permit scheme, so proposed Paul Ekins of the UCL  Institute for Sustainable Resources in London..

Ernst and Dianne

Increasing resource prices not only inspire resource efficiency but can also provide opportunities for diversifying economies in producing countries, such as in Africa. For this, resource rents need to be reinvested in human capital, infrastructure and innovation.  Many called for rapid actions led by coalitions of the willing or bilateral agreements rather than waiting for universal initiatives.

“The method to go there could be a “ping-pong” between resource productivity gains and resource prices, quite similar to the ping-pong since 150 years between labour productivity and wages – leading to a twentyfold increase of labour productivity. Small adjustments can avoid social hardship and the emigration of resource intensive industries.”  said Ernst Ulrich von Weizsaecker, co-chair of UNEP International Resource Panel.
The Naked Environmentalist: social media can substitute material consumption

Underlying driving forces of conspicuous consumption such as desire for a high social status should be analysed. Insights therefrom can induce the private sector to develop new services that satisfy consumer needs in a less materialistic way, for instance by means of using social media and new ICT applications.

Solitaire TownsendSolitaire Townsend of London-based Futerra Sustainable Communications: “Sex will save us. Or more specifically, a transformative shift in sexual signalling, away from material goods and towards virtual social status, will radically dematerialize our economies. This will enable a transition to decentralised and renewable energy systems, thus preventing biosphere collapse and irreversible climate change.”

Continuous improvements in resource efficiency must be accompanied by reductions on the demand side. A transition to a post-consumer society requires a new notion of well being in people’s private lives, and new types of economic activities that produce livelihoods that are not dependent on ever growing consumption, according to prof. Halina Brown, Clark University, USA.

Key tools and strategies the experts recommended include sustainable product and service design, waste prevention and recycling. It was acknowledged that much broader knowledge is necessary in order to change or progress beyond the culture of consumerism. Social sciences and humanities research have an increasing and important role to play in identifying, evaluating and interpreting underlying drivers for consumption choices.

Informing and empowering consumers from a young age through formal and informal education is important. This was illustrated by a young participant in the WRF Kids programme who commented: “When I was young my father repeatedly told me to be happy with what I have. I never understood that. Until today.”

European Parliament, United Nations, Club of Rome, scientists, business and NGO’s working together for a future without limits

This year’s WRF conference, held in the Swiss mountain resort Davos, was organised with support of the Swiss, German and Dutch governments, the European Parliament, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the UN Economic Commission for Africa, and other partners including the Club of Rome, the Center for International Environmental Law, the Wuppertal Institute, UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources, TNO, Hewlett-Packard, InterfaceFLOR, and the Swiss Academy of Arts and Sciences. The over 400 speakers and participants were coming from over 50 countries, such as China, India, Brazil, South Africa, Australia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Uzbekistan, Belarus, Sudan, Pakistan, Egypt, Peru, Colombia, El Salvador, Japan, USA, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Finland, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, the Netherlands, the UK and others.

As Bas de Leeuw, WRF Managing Director and former UN diplomat, commented,  “We believe in a future without limits. Our wellbeing should not be restricted by old-fashioned technologies and practices that harm the environment, destroy nature and put other people in misery. We are smart enough to boost resource productivity and use that for the benefit of all.”

WRF Parade

Experts, from governments, international organisations, business, research and civil society, exchanged their views on how to radically decrease the environmental and social burden of current consumption and production patterns.  Urgent boost of investments in resource efficiency and finding alternative resources substituting fossil fuels, metals and minerals that are critical for sustainable economic growth were seen as crucial. Global supply of resources needs to be secured by improving international cooperation and coordination.

The next World Resources Forum will take place in Arequipa, Peru, hosted by the Ministry of Environment, on 12-15 October, 2014. Conclusions therefrom will be fed into COP20, the 20th Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC (Climate Change Convention) that will be organised in Peru as well, in December 2014. Find here a first announcement. 

For more information about WRF 2013 and WRF 2014 write to info@worldresourcesforum.org

Check here the photo gallery of the event (all photos by Robert Stuermer) and the full programme with speakers and presentations.

Murmi the Marmot


A selection of pictures can be seen on our Facebook pages. And on our Twitter page one can already find an informal tweeting report, made by tweeters from the spot in Davos and beyond.

WRF 2014 will be held in Arequipa, Peru, from 12-15 October 2014. See you there!


Steiner announces increased UNEP – WRF cooperation

achim steinerNairobi, June 21 2013 In a letter to the WRF Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, has expressed his wish to explore ways for increasing the cooperation between UNEP, in particular its International Resource Panel (IRP), and the WRF.

There are in particular opportunities for disseminating the work of the IRP to a wide arrange of stakeholders, so he writes, reflecting on the outcomes of the recent meeting of the IRP, held in Berlin.

In the plenary sessions of the upcoming WRF 2013, to be held in Davos, 7-9 October, UNEP will be represented by the highest official of the Paris office, Sylvie Lemmet, who oversees the IRP as well as the SCP Marrakech process and other global issues regarding technology, trade, industry and economics.

The IRP will organise workshops respectively on metals and on city level decoupling, at WRF 2013.  The chair and many IRP members will have active speaking roles in the various sessions in Davos, and will be available for bilateral talks with participants. UNEP IRP logo

“I strongly believe”, writes Achim Steiner, “that the question of governance of natural resources constitutes a critical factor in addressing the 21st century challenge of moving towards sustainable resource management. In this framework, the role played by the World Resources Forum and its partnership with the UNEP-hosted International Resource Panel (IRP) is indeed key.” He announces new publications, including on City-level Decoupling, Metals Impact, Metals Recycling Opportunities, Sustainable Land Management and Decoupling.

In a response WRF Managing Director Bas de Leeuw, a former Paris based UNEP diplomat, then responsible for IRP and Marrakech process, says to be humbled and honored by UNEPs proposed increased cooperation. “UNEP is the authorative body on the global level in the issues of resource management, and well respected for inspiring new ways and concepts, such as the Green Economy, and for mobilising the best expertise available, to tackle the enormous challenges we face. Having such partner in our family and with such commitment is the best one could wish for.”

Find here all about UNEP and its International Resource Panel.

New: WRF 2012 meeting report now available

WRF 2012 Beijing Meeting Report - CoverSt. Gallen, 15 april 2013 The meeting report of World Resources Forum 2012 was published today. The report has the chairman’s summary, plenary session stories, selected workshop highlights, overview of scientific sessions and posters, the full WRF 2012 final program, results of participants survey and an overview of sponsors and partners.

The report can be downloaded as PDF. Hardcopies of the printed colourful 50 pages report – which has a brand new format and design – can be requested by writing to info@worldresourcesforum.org, stating how many copies you would like for what purpose and with some background of your organisation if needed. The requests will be reviewed on various criteria, including first come first serve, type of your organisation, status as (former) partner or participant etc. The copy/copies will be sent free of charge within 4 weeks after the request.

WRF 2012 took place in the prestigious China National Convention Centre, where over 700 participants were present at the official opening by China’s Vice-Minister for Environmental Protection, H.E. Li Ganjie. The confernce had keynotes from influential scientists such as Amory B. Lovins (Rocky Mountains Institute) and Tom Graedel (Yale University), Member of the European Parliament Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy, and business leaders, such as Joachim Klink (Hewlett-Packard). Several workshops were organised, including by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Swiss Academy of Arts and Sciences, the German Federal Environmental Agency, the UNEP/Wuppertal Institute CSCP Centre, and others. Oral sessions (250 abstracts presented in 11 scientific themes), some 80 poster presentations, and a children’s drawing exhibition of Swiss and Chinese schools were part of the program as well.

Download the report here or request your copy by writing to info@worldresourcesforum.org

Gefeliciteerd ma, je zou vandaag 81 geworden zijn

Jo 80“. Dat was de titel van het grote feest voor mijn vader, bijna zes jaar geleden. Zaaltje. Slingers. Koffie met gebak. Lopend buffet. Bier en jenever. Het feestvarken op een versierde stoel met ballonnen. Gedichten. En een powerpoint met foto’s uit de oude doos.

Vandaag precies een jaar geleden zou het tijd zijn geweest voor een “Riekie 80”. Mijn moeder.  Vijf jaar jonger. Altijd aan het lezen. Dromen. En in gedachten aan het reizen. Ze zou graag hebben doorgeleerd. Maar in haar tijd deden meisjes dat niet. In plaats daarvan schrobben, poetsen, kinderen baren (waaronder mij, dus het had erger gekund) en boterhammen smeren.

Een VOS-cursus (“Vrouwen Oriënteren zich op de Samenleving”) maakte haar tot een laat-feministe, toen wij, kinderen, allang in de tienerleeftijd en op uitvliegen stonden. Mijn ouders scheidden. En mijn moeder ging spannende dingen doen, zoals in een woonwagen leven en schilderen.

Vorig jaar zouden we ergens in een feestzaaltje “Riekie 80” gevierd kunnen hebben. Een bruisend feest. Met een buffet. Maar Riekie is niet meer. Ze is bijna twintig jaar geleden overleden.

Moedertje, van harte, en nog vele jaren … in onze gedachten!

Dit zouden wat foto’s voor de powerpoint zijn geweest:

En zo zou je stoel er ongeveer hebben uitgezien … inderdaad … wees maar blij! 😉

WRF calls for Resource Efficiency at UNCTAD Meeting

Geneva, 21 March 2013 Investing in resource efficiency is a smart longterm strategy for stabilising commodity markets with no regrets. This was the key message of WRF Managing Director Bas de Leeuw who spoke to last week’s UNCTAD expert meeting on commodities and development.

He presented an analysis of the outcomes of the last three WRF’s, respectively held in 2009 and 2011 (Davos) and 2012 (Beijing), which shows the following top 3 policy recommendations: increasing resource efficiency, investing in alternative resources, renewable energy and recycled materials (urban mining), and securing supplies by means of strengthening international cooperation. Download his presentation here (PDF).

901915_10151486259048022_2087717104_oHe also presented upcoming work of the WRF in a 4-year Sustainable Recycling Industries (SRI) project, together with Empa and SECO (the Swiss Economics Affairs State Secretariat), which will aim at establishing sustainability criteria for non-renewable secondary raw materials.

Participants were interested in circular economy, standards, and resource efficiency concepts, but some stated that these may be less relevant in the case of developing countries. Acknowledging that specific policies may differ according to economic and social circumstances, policy priorities, structural market differences, and knowledge and skills,  De Leeuw said that in general “closing loops and doing more with less might be all the more important when you have few resources”.

Resource efficiency creates space, so that markets can become less volatile and more predictable. He added that capacity building, technology tranfer, also South-South, would be important policy priorities. 

For in-depth discussions on resource efficiency in the context of development one participant called for a World Resources Forum to be held in Africa, an idea which was welcomed by the audience.

The objective of the meeting was to enable commodity-dependent developing countries (CDDCs), in accordance with the Doha Mandate to identify measures in order to secure, as a priority, adequate access to food and energy, use commodity revenues in contributing to economic growth and poverty reduction and cope with the challenges of commodity price volatility.

The meeting was organised by Samuel K. Gayi, Head of the Special Unit on Commodities, and his team.

All information, including background material, program and presentations are to be found on the UNCTAD website, where you will also find the chairman’s summary of this meeting once available (expected end of April).

Our photo gallery (pictures by UNCTAD and Veronika Rekasi) is here.

Commodity Trade Hotspot Switzerland debate: “no them and us”

oikos 3St Gallen, 15 November 2012. Bas de Leeuw, Managing Director at WRF opened the Oikos conference at the University of St. Gallen.  He introduced the topic of sustainability presenting the key concepts, challenges and opportunities. This introduction led to the main topic of the conference “Commodity Trade – Hotspot Switzerland”.

oikos 2Bas urged to take  action on sustainable development, showing that there is no need to choose between two extreme attitudes represented by hard and soft approaches – economic gain vs. environment, corporations vs. society,   cheap labor force – local resources etc. The best manner to solve the problem is abandoning the distinction between ‘them’ and ‘us’, where the companies are blamed for negative impact on the society and environment. Consumer’s behavior is influencing big corporations and their decisions, consequently, people purchasing goods can make a difference. Protests and boycotts are a form of putting important issues higher on the public and media agenda, nevertheless   the philosophy of ‘doing more with less’ – consuming and producing more efficiently and differently providing opportunities for the poor – seems to be the way to reach sustainable development.61403_10151280764268022_991161420_n

Read here the full article, written by Marcela Mogilska.

“Sustainability is about behavior. We need social science to make real progress”

DSC_0043b_1Bern, 7 November 2012   “Sustainability is about behavior, things that people feel, think and do. We cannot solve this issue with natural and technical science alone. We can go on publishing our analyses and organizing our UN conferences for another forty years, but we need social science to make real progress.” This was said by WRF Managing Director Bas de Leeuw in a podium discussion at the end of a colloquium on sustainable resource use and lifestyles, organized by the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences in Bern, November 7, 2012.

He believed that the sense of urgency seems to be missing not only with politicians but also with scientists. He challenged scientists to not always wait for 100% certainty and consensus in promoting their findings. “Suppose you have found out that next week a meteorite will strike Switzerland, and you calculated it will come down in the centre of Zurich … would you then also wait for peer review? Start a new research? Or would you very seriously alert the authorities and your family and friends, even knowing that you might be wrong and that you also will not get any academic credits for that work?”

Bas de Leeuw referred to the outcomes of WRF 2011, where more attention to social science was recommended, and to a corresponding article in Gaia, in which plans were revealed to start working on this issue, beginning in Switzerland. He spoke about a workshop which was held at WRF 2012, Beijing, just a few weeks ago, which had the title “When will they start listening to us”.  This workshop was one of the most visited and had to be extended with some extra hours of discussions.

Read the full article here.

Allemaal meer loon …. gesproken column voor D66 congres (video)

Rotterdam, 21 april 2012 Allemaal meer loon … en het milieu ook nog schoon! Dat was de uitdagende titel van de speech van Bas de Leeuw op het D66 voorjaarscongres, gehouden in het Rotterdamse Luxortheater.

De integrale tekst staat hier (onder de video).

Allemaal meer loon … en het milieu ook nog schoon

  1. Milieu is uit. Zeggen ze. Het gaat tegenwoordig alleen nog maar om de economie. Zeggen ze. Ik geloof daar geen zak van!
  2. Wat wel uit is, is de manier waarop we over het milieu praten. De preken over de toekomstige generaties. Duurzame ontwikkeling. Dat soort taal is zooooooo vorige eeuw. Toen zijn die generaties verzonnen. Maar wat niemand in de gaten heeft gehad is dat die volgende generaties er inmiddels al lang zijn. En die toekomst, die is ook al lang begonnen.
  3. Milieu gaat niet over later. En het is niet alleen klimaatverandering. We hebben het over gif in ons eten, om plastic in de oceanen, om luchtvervuiling. En het gaat over moeders in India die met hun baby op schoot aan onze afgedankte mobieltjes zitten te frummelen. Ze likken er aan om te proeven wat voor metaal erin zit!
  4. Dit zijn allemaal dingen die nu gebeuren. En echt niemand vindt dat ok. Wat je moet doen is het laten zien. Concreet. En maak vooral duidelijk dat je het zelf, als overheid, serieus neemt. Met de bankencrisis zag je Obama en Sarkozy zenuwachtig rondrennen. Met de Eurocrisis hetzelfde: ministers met bleke gezichtjes nachtenlang vergaderen in Brussel. Met het milieu zie je dat nooit. Tuurlijk, er zijn Klimaatverdragen en er is elke tien jaar een Milieutop, maar de urgentie spat er niet van af.
  5. Heel belangrijk is dat je als overheid nou eindelijk eens gaat doen wat alleen de overheid kan doen: wetten maken en belastingen heffen. Zorg dat produkten waarvan je niet wil dat mensen ze kopen ook niet in de winkels liggen. Miljoenen consumenten met campagnes oproepen vooral andere produkten te kopen is echt heel omslachtig.
  6. Je kunt ook zorgen dat ze duurder zijn dan de milieuvriendelijke. Duurder. Niet goedkoper. Dat is wel zo logisch. En het kan. Met belastingen.
  7. Maar hoe krijg je vandaag de dag mensen warm voor belastingen? Door duidelijk te zeggen wat het betekent. Praat dus niet over het streven naar een ecologisering van ons belastingstelsel. Maar kondig je plan aan met een titel die getwitterd kan worden, bijvoorbeeld het plan van „Allemaal meer loon“. Nou, die wordt rondgestuurd! En het klopt nog ook. Dat is het mooie. Allemaal meer loon, en het milieu ook nog schoon. Echt.
  8. Een verschuiving van de lastendruk van arbeid naar grondstoffen betekent dat iedereen minder belasting gaat betalen, en dat vervuilende produkten meer gaan kosten. Iedereen krijgt dus meer loon. Je kunt dan dezelfde produkten blijven kopen. Of je gaat milieuvriendelijke produkten kopen. En dan ben je dus beter af. Het mooie is dat jij helemaal zelf bepaalt wat je aan het milieu doet, en waarom.
  9. Als je als overheid eindelijk hebt gedaan wat je al jaren geleden had moeten doen dan kun je echt vertrouwen op de eigen kracht van mensen. De een doet het vanwege het milieu, de ander om het geld, wat maakt het uit …. En die paar die het niet doen, daar moet je je niet druk om maken. Net zoals vrede op aarde ook niet betekent dat echt helemaal niemand meer een ander in elkaar zal tremmen. That’s life. Je moet niet iedereen willen bekeren. Dat is voor mij de milieuboodschap anno nu. Een boodschap die aanslaat. Let maar eens op.

Presenting the shortcut to sustainability (video)

Mumbai, January 2012. Opening the Sustainability Series, an employee training program of the Indian YES Bank, Bas de Leeuw, Managing Director of the World Resources Forum, made the business case for sustainability, and commented about consumer attitude and expectations.

In an interactive one hour session for over hundred senior managers of the bank Bas discussed global challenges, such as population growth, resource scarcity and tackling these through government, business and individual measures, aiming at decoupling environmental impact from economic growth. Referring to the increasing opportunities that internet and social media offer he stressed that “there is a shortcut to sustainability, if you don’t, your customers will do it themselves”.

View an 15 minute excerpt here (video, low resolution):

Bas looks back and forward