Conflict Transformation
Land & Food
Minerals & Mining
Private Sector
Security
Water
Global Issues
Clare Church, IISD
Danger, unsafe mine
© Shutterstock

A new report analyses how the transition to a low-carbon economy – and the minerals and metals required to make that shift – could affect fragility, conflict, and violence dynamics in mineral-rich states.

Could the pursuit of one Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) jeopardize the success of another?

SDGs 7 and 13 call for affordable and clean energy and concerted global action on climate change – respectively. Transitioning from fossil fuels to green energy technologies – like wind turbines, solar panels, and electric vehicles – will be integral in meeting both of these goals, as well as the global commitments outlined in the Paris Agreement. But the mismanagement of mineral supply chains required for the development and deployment of these green energy technologies could threaten the realization of SDG 16 for peace, justice, and strong institutions.

In a new report, Green Conflict Minerals: The fuels of conflict in the transition to a low-carbon economy, the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) analyses how the transition to a low-carbon economy – and the minerals and metals required to make that shift – could affect fragility, conflict, and violence dynamics in mineral-rich states. The report finds that the increased extraction of many of the minerals required for the green energy transition – including cobalt, lithium, and rare earths – has been and still is linked to local grievances, tensions, and (in the worst cases) violence.

The report’s mapping analysis, for example, overlays fragility and corruption indicators with global mineral reserves, demonstrating that almost all of the minerals identified as critical to solar, wind, and energy storage technologies are found in high concentrations in states perceived to be either corrupt or very corrupt, according to Transparency International. Additionally, more than 70 per cent of cobalt, graphite, molybdenum, and selenium reserves – all integral to these technologies – are found in states labelled as fragile, as per reports from the Fund for Peace.

The report identifies 23 key minerals that will be critical to the development and deployment of green energy technologies and interrogates whether increased demand for these minerals could support peaceful, sustainable development in countries where strategic reserves are found, or whether their extraction is likely to reinforce weak governance and exacerbate local tensions. Bauxite and alumina mining operations in Guinea, for example, have been the source of recent riots in Boké. In the border region between Bolivia, Argentina, and Chile, known as the Lithium Triangle, water and land rights disputes have been aggravated by the increasing demand for lithium, a mineral critical to electric vehicle batteries. And in the Democratic Republic of Congo, cobalt extraction – a key mineral  to energy storage technologies – has been linked to incidents of child labour and human rights abuses.

While the transition to green energy technologies is necessary to fulfill the targets of the SDGs, so too is the responsible sourcing of the minerals needed for this transition. Foreign policy and other government agencies, civil society groups, and the private sector must work together towards the responsible management of green energy supply chains, building off of the success of existing responsible sourcing practices, in order to ensure that the success of one SDG does not spell out failure of another.

 

Clare Church is a Research Officer for the International Institute for Sustainable Development and the co-author of the report “Green Conflict Minerals: The fuels of conflict in the transition to a low-carbon economy.”

Adaptation & Resilience
Early Warning & Risk Analysis
Asia
Dhanasree Jayaram

In 2018, many countries, including India, have been at the receiving end of the worst disasters the world has ever witnessed. It is imperative that they adopt a human security approach to achieve “freedom from hazard impacts” – nationally through a scientific disaster risk reduction strategy, and internationally through climate diplomacy.

Climate Change
Climate Diplomacy
Global Issues
Katarina Schulz and Stella Schaller, adelphi

Climate diplomacy has been picking up momentum in 2018. To celebrate Climate Diplomacy Week 2018, we collected our 10 best climate diplomacy stories of the year. Travel with us from Brussels to The Hague, Rio de Janeiro, New Delhi, Beijing and San Francisco.

Adaptation & Resilience
Capacity Building
Climate Change
Climate Diplomacy
Global Issues
North America
Claire Stam, Euractiv

San Francisco’s Global Climate Action Summit ended on 14 September with non-state actors sending a call to action to governments ahead of the crucial COP24 in December, while highlighting their pivotal role in reducing emissions and reaching climate targets.

Adaptation & Resilience
Climate Change
Climate Diplomacy
Development
Global Issues
Jocelyn Timperley, Carbon Brief

Time is running short for countries to decide the practical details of how the Paris Agreement will be brought to life, known as the Paris “rulebook”.