Full Title: Geopolitics of the Energy Transition: Critical Materials
Author(s): Elizabeth Press, Thijs Van de Graaf, Martina Lyons, Isaac Elizondo Garcia, Ellipse Rath, and Benjamin Gibson
Publisher(s): International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA)
Publication Date: July 29, 2023
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IRENA’s analytical work on geopolitics began in 2018 with the formation of the Global Commission on the Geopolitics of Energy Transformation, which culminated in a sweeping overview of the geopolitical implications of a global shift to renewables in the 2019 report, A New World: The Geopolitics of the Energy Transformation. In 2020, IRENA created the Collaborative Framework on the Geopolitics of Energy Transformation as a forum for dialogue on the geopolitical implications of this shift. In response to priorities voiced by IRENA’s members during those discussions, IRENA undertook a detailed study on the future of hydrogen in the 2022 report, Geopolitics of the Energy Transformation: The Hydrogen Factor.
In Geopolitics of the Energy Transition: Critical Materials, the focus pivots to a theme that embodies both the future and the past. Today, it is abundantly clear that the energy transition will require a dramatic increase in the supply of critical materials. Projections for rapidly growing materials demand create both opportunities and the spectre of geopolitical risks. Yet the rush for raw minerals and metals is not a new phenomenon; be it coal, gold or any other extractive commodity in human history, this is, in many ways, a familiar paradigm. Mining has all too often played out as a tale of extremes – simultaneously characterised by the newfound comforts and prosperities, and a legacy of poor labour records, displacements, polluted waterways and degraded land in the communities where mines operate. A renewables-based energy transition provides a chance to rewrite the script for extractive commodities and ensure their value chains are more inclusive, ethical and sustainable.
The report draws on a wide range of sources to provide a balanced and nuanced perspective on the many complex issues at play. It is intended as a resource for policy makers, industry leaders, researchers and civil society actors who seek to understand and address the geopolitical challenges of a renewables-based energy transition