To achieve zero emissions in 2050, we must multiply the use of rare earths and minerals by 6

To achieve zero emissions in 2050, we must multiply the use of rare earths and minerals by 6

To achieve zero emissions in 2050

The International Energy Agency predicts the percentages of increasing consumption of essential minerals for the technology industry and the ecological transition

Copper cables Photo by Łukasz Klepaczewski from Pixabay Ecological transition policies should be updated to global level to avoid an increase in prices and guarantee a constant supply of minerals and raw materials essential to develop sustainable technologies: this is the message that emerges from a report published the other day by the International Energy Agency of Paris (Iea), dedicated to the role of essential minerals in the transition to clean energy.

Based on current trends, the global need for these materials in the various sectors (electricity grids, technology, electric mobility, wind-photovoltaic) should double by 2040, but if all countries of the world implemented the requirements of the Paris Agreement for count with the global increase in temperature "well below 2 degrees", demand should quadruple over the same period of time. Then, imagining a commitment to achieve the global goal of zero net emissions in 2050, this estimate goes up to six times the current levels, again over the next twenty years.

The demand for lithium could thus increase by more than 40 times, followed by graphite (25), cobalt (21), nickel (19), manganese (8), rare earths (7), copper (3) , above all to allow the production of batteries and the development of electric mobility. A wind farm on land, for example, needs nine times as much mineral resources as a gas power plant, while an electric car requires six times the amount of minerals (200 kilograms) of a conventional one (about 33 kg). According to the IEA, this need has already increased by 50% since 2010 and electric cars have already overtaken electronics as the largest consumer of lithium.

Already under the policies currently in force, the expansion of networks electricity will double the demand for copper. On Wednesday, the red metal has already exceeded the threshold of 10 thousand dollars (10,021 per ton) on the London market in three months, the highest since February 2011. On the question, Bank of America assumes a price increase of up to 13 thousand dollars in the coming months. With reservations at the same levels as 15 years ago, according to Cnbc, the autonomy is just over three weeks and, without an efficiency of the supply chain in the recovery of materials, the price could reach 20 thousand dollars by 2025.

Paradoxically, the situation is also complicated by the economic recovery plan, which in the United States provides for 2 trillion dollars in investments in new infrastructures, and in Europe a recovery plan worth 1.8 trillion euros overall in seven years for a more digital and sustainable development: two giants who will join China in the consumption of essential raw materials. The ecological transition could be slower and more expensive than expected.

A complex and opaque supply chain, a high concentration of materials in a few countries (such as China and Congo), higher socio-environmental standards, lower quality of available deposits: these are some obstacles that the IEA identifies in the essential minerals sector. “The challenges are not insurmountable - says Fatih Birol, executive director of the Iea -. By acting now and together, governments can significantly reduce the risk of price volatility and the consumption of deposits ”. Six are the Agency's recommendations: promoting recycling, technological innovation, guaranteeing the resilience of supply chains and market transparency, ensuring adequate investments between diversified sources, improving environmental standards, encouraging collaboration between producers and consumers.

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