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  • Aasavari Joshi

CE in COP27 Series - The Low-Carbon Energy Transition Through a Sustainable Supply of Raw Materials

The World Bank predicts that by 2050 the demand for high-impact minerals will increase by 500% and that an additional 50 lithium mines, 60 nickel mines, and 17 cobalt mines will need to be built by 2030. The transportation industry will need to undergo a significant transition if the European Green Deal's climate goals are to be achieved. Particularly batteries are essential for decarbonizing the transportation sector and advancing green mobility. However, they require a lot of critical raw materials (CRM) such as copper, nickel, lithium, cobalt, and rare earths. CRMs are vital parts of numerous renewable energy systems, including electric cars, solar panels, and wind turbines. Government efforts to phase out an excessive reliance on fossil fuels have resulted in a sharp increase in demand for CRM.

There is an urgent need for an energy transition as the globe is currently experiencing a severe energy crisis. To address the topic, an event titled “A global sustainability framework for critical raw materials required for low-carbon transitions” was held on Tuesday, 8th of November at COP27. Olga Algayerova, executive secretary of UNECE, spoke on behalf of the five regional commissions of the United Nations. She emphasized the need for enormous amounts of CRMs to deploy the low-carbon technologies necessary for climate change mitigation and adaptation. Dependence on fossil fuels threatens world health by accelerating the effects of climate change. As a result of the current energy crisis, people are lacking access to the energy they require to heat their homes, preserve food, and administer medications. She outlined that the manufacturing of resources like lithium, nickel, copper, and cobalt must be sustainable and ethical if the world is to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels.

New mines must deal with issues including waste disposal, social acceptance, and sustainable water and land use. For a sustainable and safe supply of CRMs, Ms. Algayerova stated that "a standardized and harmonized approach to CRM production concentrating on Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) factors at a worldwide level will be crucial". She further argued that "de-risking investments, particularly those supported by climate finance, requires the transparent and ethical development of CRMs”.

To address sustainability and technology challenges, UNECE is creating the United Nations Resource Management System (UNRMS), a multifaceted, principles-based system that can assist stakeholders with a variety of sustainability goals, including social and environmental management, to attract ESG-related financing and encourage circular economy actions. In addition, the UN Secretary-General established a Working Group on “Transforming the Extractive Industries for Sustainable Development” earlier this year. The group is co-chaired by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and the five UN Regional Economic Commissions (UNDP). The working group's goal is to improve international collaboration to make the extractive industries the driving forces towards low-carbon transitions. It focuses on social and environmental issues, crucial raw commodities, and investment principles.

Watch out for our next news pieces coming up in the next few days in the Circular Economy in COP27 Series, where we will dive deeper into the discussions on circular economy during COP27.


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