Critical minerals and the green energy transition: Make Change Happen podcast episode 26

In this episode we discuss the huge potential presented by critical minerals in supporting the global transition to clean energy and decarbonisation, while also examining some of the lesser-known issues associated with extracting these minerals. 

Article, 23 May 2024

In IIED’s ‘Make Change Happen’ podcasts, our researchers and guests discuss key global development challenges and explain what we are doing to support positive change.

Critical minerals are in the headlines, attracting global attention for their potential in supporting the green energy pathway and accelerating the shift away from fossil fuels.

These minerals – such as cobalt, lithium and copper – make green technologies including electric vehicles, solar panels and wind turbines possible. And demand is booming.

If extracted in the right way, the opportunities presented by these minerals are huge. But the critical minerals boom does not come without issues. If not managed well, extraction can have negative impacts on communities, ecosystems and local economies.

This episode is a conversation between IIED senior researcher Eric Bisil and executive director of Africa Resources Watch (Afrewatch) Emmanuel Umpula. They discuss the potential of critical minerals in speeding up the fossil fuel phase-out, and how they can support the productivity and economic growth of countries that are rich in these minerals.

The conversation picks up some of the issues presented by the rush to access critical minerals. We hear contributions from Ketakandriana Rafitoson, executive director of Publish What You Pay, who describes the social and environmental impacts of critical mineral mining in Madagascar due to lack of regulation and failure to properly consult with communities.

Emmanuel highlights the need for the green energy transition to be a just transition, ensuring that all countries benefit, particularly countries in the global South. In the context of critical minerals, this means generating income and jobs at the local level and involving local communities while minimising environmental harm. 

We hear the perspective of IIED senior researcher Rose Mosi, who sets out ways to ensure that countries with big supplies of critical minerals benefit from the rising global demand. This includes having strong governance systems in place along with clear plans for how these countries will use the minerals they extract, to support their own green energy transition.

Eric and Emmanuel also explore recycling of critical minerals and whether this can help reduce some of the societal and environmental pressures causes by extraction. We hear the perspective of IIED’s head of energy, Ben Garside, who highlights that while there’s clear potential in more recycling of critical minerals, more work is needed to improve regulation around recycling. 

Contributors

Head and shoulders photo of Eric Bisil.

Eric Bisil is a senior researcher within IIED’s law, economies and justice programme. He has rich experience in natural resource governance and the extractive sector, and deep sectoral knowledge of gold and cobalt mining and global value chains. He has strong connections to networks of civil society organisations working on natural resource governance issues.

Head and shoulders photo of Emmanuel Umpula.

Emmanuel Umpula is executive director of the African Natural Resources Watch (AFREWATCH). He is an expert on business and human rights and on the governance of the extractive sector in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and in Africa. Emmanuel was one of the civil society experts from the DRC who contributed to the revision of the Congolese mining code and regulations.

Head and shoulders photo of Ketakandriana Rafitoson.

Ketakandriana Rafitoson is executive director of Publish What You Pay (PWYP). 

Head and shoulders photo of Rose Mosi.

Rose Mosi is a senior researcher within IIED’s law, economies and justice programme. Rose is an energy and natural resources law specialist focusing on advancing land rights, land based/agribusiness investments and natural resource governance. Areas of expertise include land and land-based investment, natural resource governance, mineral law and policy, and energy law and policy.

Head and shoulders photo of Ben Garside.

Ben Garside is principal researcher at IIED and leads the institute’s work on energy access and renewable energy. Ben has a particular interest in pro-poor and inclusive business models that improve impacts for the poorest. This includes building cross-sector problem-solving processes that tailor energy services to better suit local needs and contexts. 

How to listen and subscribe

The ‘Make Change Happen’ podcast provides informal insights into IIED’s work to create positive change and make the complex issues we face more accessible to wider audiences. The title refers to IIED’s 2019-2024 strategy, which sets out how IIED plans to respond to the critical challenges of our time.

Listen to the podcast on IIED's YouTube channel.

Follow the podcast on @IIED_Voices for all the latest updates.