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Ensuring a sustainable supply of critical raw materials is essential for achieving low-carbon energy transition

Ensuring a sustainable supply of critical raw materials is essential for achieving low-carbon energy transition


The world is in the midst of a deep energy crisis and in need of urgent energy transition. However, this transition cannot happen without massive quantities of critical raw materials (CRMs) needed to deploy the low-carbon technologies required for climate change mitigation and adaptation, said UNECE Executive Secretary Olga Algayerova at COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, speaking on behalf of all five United Nations regional commissions.

Fossil fuel dependence undermines global health through increased climate change impacts. As a result, millions of people do not have access to the energy they need to keep their homes warm, to preserve food and medication. Reducing the world’s dependency on fossil fuels can only take place through sustainable and responsible production of materials, such as lithium, nickel, copper, cobalt, manganese, graphite, and rare earth elements.

According to the World Bank, three billion tons of minerals and metals will be needed by 2050 and by 2030 we will need to build 50 more lithium mines, 60 more nickel mines and 17 more cobalt mines to meet global net carbon emissions goals. The new mines must tackle challenges, such as sustainable water and land use, waste disposal and social acceptance.

“A standardized and harmonized approach to CRM production focusing on Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) aspects at a global level will be key to ensuring the sustainable and secure supply of CRMs,” Ms. Algayerova noted. “Transparent and responsible production of CRMs is also essential to de-risk investments, including those underpinned by climate finance.”

UNECE is developing the United Nations Resource Management System (UNRMS), a principles-based multi-faceted system to tackle sustainability and technology challenges that can support stakeholders with a range of sustainability goals, including social and environmental management, attracting ESG-related financing and helping to stimulate circular economy actions.

Furthermore, earlier this year the UN Secretary-General established the Working Group on Transforming the Extractive Industries for Sustainable Development, co-chaired by the five UN Regional Economic Commissions, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The working group aims to enhance global cooperation on making the extractive industries the engines of the low-carbon transitions. It is focused on climate-related activities, social and environmental concerns, critical raw materials and investment guidelines. It is also focused on the Least Developed Countries and on ensuring that indigenous peoples, women and youth have a seat at the table.

United Nations Economic Commission for Europe

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