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A shortage of these metals could worsen the climate crisis


As countries shift to green energy, demand for copper, lithium, nickel, cobalt and rare earths is skyrocketing. But they are all vulnerable to price volatility and shortages, the agency warned in a report released Wednesday, as their supply chains are opaque, the quality of available deposits declines and mining companies face environmental standards. and more stringent social.

Another risk factor is the limited access to known mineral deposits. Three countries together control more than 75% of the world’s production of lithium, cobalt and rare earths. The Democratic Republic of the Congo was responsible for 70% of cobalt production in 2019, and China produced 60% of the rare earth elements while refining 50% to 70% of lithium and cobalt, and nearly 90% of rare earth elements. Australia is the other powerful player.

In the past, mining companies have responded to increased demand by increasing their investment in new projects. But it takes an average of 16 years from the discovery of a deposit for a mine to start production, according to the IEA. Current supply and investment plans focus on “gradual and insufficient action on climate change,” he warned.

“These risks to the reliability, accessibility and sustainability of the mineral supply are manageable, but they are real,” the Paris agency said in the most comprehensive report on the matter to date. “How policymakers and businesses respond will determine whether critical minerals are a vital catalyst for clean energy transitions or a bottleneck in the process.”

Minerals are essential for technologies that are expected to play a leading role in the fight against climate change.

The average electric car requires six times more minerals than a conventional car, according to the IEA. Lithium, nickel, cobalt, manganese and graphite are essential for batteries. Power grids require huge amounts of copper and aluminum, while rare earth elements are used in the magnets needed to run wind turbines.

Achieving the goals of the Paris climate agreement will require a “significant” increase in clean energy, according to the IEA, which estimates that the annual installation of wind turbines is expected to triple by 2040 and that sales of electric cars are expected to increase 25-fold over the same period. Achieving net zero emissions by 2050 would require even more investment.

“The data shows a looming mismatch between the world’s enhanced climate ambitions and the availability of critical minerals that are essential to achieving those ambitions,” Fatih Birol, IEA executive director, said in a statement. “The challenges are not insurmountable, but governments must give clear signals on how they plan to turn their climate pledges into action.”

The agency said policymakers should bring more clarity on the energy transition, promote the development of new technologies and recycling, improve supply chain resilience and encourage environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards. ) higher.

The IEA, which advises the richest countries in the world and was founded after oil supply shocks in the 1970s, has said that supplying minerals will be the challenge of 21st century energy security.

“Concerns about price volatility and security of supply do not disappear in an electrified, renewable energy-rich energy system,” he said.

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