This paper considers the implications of the emerging post-2015 Development Agenda and the proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the extractives sector. The paper is one of four foundation papers for a global dialogue event held by UNDP, in collaboration with the Government of Brazil and other partners, and is focused on the role of the extractive sector in protecting the environment. The United Nations sustainable development agenda has only relatively recently involved the extractive resource sector within the global agenda for change. The draft SDGs defined by the Open Working Group are relevant to the extractive sector and offer the opportunity for rejuvenation, however, cooperation is required to define goals specific to the sector and to the jurisdictions in which the sector operates.
Resource extraction continues to expand in developing countries. For example, when measured by value, 22% of global mineral extraction now occurs in resource rich developing countries (Chile, Brazil, Peru, South Africa, Zambia, DRC). Importantly from a development perspective there are a large number of countries where resource ex traction (both minerals and hydrocarbons) plays a significant role in the economy of the country. While the expansion of resource extraction may present greater risks in some contexts, it is also potentially an opportunity to advance human development if well governed.
Corporate engagement in the sustainable development agenda is growing. Responsible companies have increased their capabilities to manage a range of environmental issues by employing sustainability professionals, developing environmental
management systems, and adopting stronger corporate and industry-wide environmental standards. Peak industry organizations such as the ICMM and IPIECA have supported the 6 adoption of policies and practices that have improved performance. There is a key role for governments to tailor the regulation of the extractive industries to their specific environmental and governance context and build on the softregulatory approaches that have proliferated across the sector.
For a range of key environmental indicators, however, challenges remain. Environmental issues are increasingly generating conflict between the extractive sector and local communities in the vicinity of projects. Ore grades are in decline for most mineral commodities, meaning more rock must be mined to produce the same amount of resource. Offshore oil production is moving into deeper water and onshore unconventional gas production is growing. These trends are placing pressure on water, energy, greenhouse gas intensity and chemical inputs, and increasing the risks associated with spills of solid and liquid wastes. Successes have been realized. Oil spills from tankers, combined carriers and barges have dramatically declined coinciding with requirements for double hulled tankers. Improved engineering practice and environmental management have led to a decline in tailings dam failures, even while the number of tailings failure incidents remains unacceptably high.
The post-2015 Development Agenda is an opportunity to reverse the sustainability trends that have declined, and build on areas where the extractive sector has improved. What is now needed is dialogue to inform tailored SDGs and progress indicators. The institutional architecture exists to promote cooperation to meet this ambitious agenda, such that mineral and hydrocarbon resources are harnessed for sustainable and equitable global development.