An international team of researchers published a paper in Science stating that the global low-carbon revolution could be at risk unless new international agreements and governance mechanisms are put in place to ensure a sustainable supply of rare minerals and metals.
According to the scientists, the main risk emerges from the fact that global supplies of cobalt, copper, lithium, cadmium, and rare earth elements needed for solar photovoltaics, batteries, electric vehicle motors, wind turbines, fuel cells, and nuclear reactors tend to be heavily monopolized by a single country, confronted by social and environmental conflict, or concentrated in poorly functioning markets.
“There is a real possibility that a shortage of minerals could hold back the urgent need for a rapid upscaling of low-carbon technologies,” the experts say. Thus, in their article, they made a series of recommendations to help manage the demand for such low-carbon technology minerals as well as limiting the environmental and public health damage of their extraction and processing.
In a summary of the paper, the researchers outline their key suggestions:
“Our analysis is aimed at galvanizing international policy-makers to include mineral supply concerns for green technologies in climate change negotiations,” Saleem Ali, Blue and Gold Distinguished Professor of Energy and the Environment at the University of Delaware, said in a media statement. “We need to build on the resolution on mineral governance passed at the United Nations Environment Assembly in 2019 and operationalize a clear action plan on supply chain security for a low carbon transition.”