This notion was put forth by a discipline-overlapping group of researchers from academia and industry, as per a recent article about mineral supply in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.
Metals and minerals such as cobalt, lithium, and nickel will particularly be difficult to mine and process for a country such as the US, the group estimates.
The current political climate is forcing European economies as well as the US to cut emissions from transoceanic trade and to revitalize domestic manufacturing prowess. Nevertheless, it must be highlighted that China is a governing force when it comes to mining and processing minerals and metals.
Lead author and University of Delaware researcher Saleem Ali believes that in order to tackle the global environmental issue of climate change, G20 countries must negotiate an agreement on integrated mineral supply and its security.
Ali comments, “Regardless of our differences with China and Russia, we should focus on making sure there is some agreement on mineral supply security to meet the obligations of the green energy transition”
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Focus on Green Technologies
The research calls for the establishment of an integrated mineral supply chain specifically for green technologies only as such metals have traditionally been used by the military-industrial complex and have emerged as issues of national security. This will encourage all nations to unequivocally cooperate, says the research.
“The article lays out some of the recommendations for establishing such a global mineral supply agreement where countries would say, ‘Look, regardless of our differences, if the metals are going to be used for green technologies, we will assure supply,’” said Ali.
A partially reasonable appropriation is what Ali highlights as minerals are geologically determined. Capitalizing on their geological treasure due to vast swathes of land, nations such as China and Russia naturally enjoy a wealth of minerals.
“You want to do it where it’s ecologically efficient,” Ali highlighted. “That’s the other important part of this agreement: if we hunker down into resource nationalism completely, we will potentially end up harming the environment in the long run because we will end up creating mines where it’s not ecologically efficient.”
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Research urging an integrated mineral supply
With the research also urging an integrated mineral supply with countries such as Canada and Australia, Ali believes emphasizes that the study does not suggest that the US should disregard its allies in any way.
Ali further added that, “We are not saying that shouldn’t be done, but a global mineral supply agreement would diversify and create more resilience for the green energy transition. That’s what we have argued for.”
With transmission and storage infrastructure not currently being in a position to tackle the intended transition period, Ali and his colleagues are of the belief that the US must be flexible in exploring other sources of raw materials. They also urge stakeholders to be more transparent and realistic towards the climate goals that the US government has pledged to achieve by the year 2030.
“As much as we appreciate the thought of it, it cannot be done while at the same time saying, ‘We are decoupling from China,’ and that is a serious problem,” warned Ali. “We need to try to arrange better ties with securing these supplies through a global agreement with China and other countries where it is more practical to extract.