“The green transition strategies of many rich nations are based on a model characterized by the industrial-scale extraction of limited reserves of metals and minerals, leaving the production and consumption of raw materials unchecked.”
Groups fighting new mining initiatives have warned that the decarbonization plans unveiled by governments for COP26 amount to little more than “greenwashing.”
Environmentalists have pointed to a disjunction between the declared commitments of developed countries to abandon carbon-intensive economic growth and the “green transition” routes to net zero they are developing – which include the plans outlined by the United United and the European Union.
Ultimately, they say the proposals simply represent a new frontier of the “market-driven, mining-intensive” model of extractivism that was key to creating the climate crisis.
The talks of the United Nations climate conference have seen a rhetorical turn against traditional mining, as world leaders seek to demonstrate that they are pursuing meaningful climate action plans.
In his keynote speech at the summit, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told delegates: “Just burn, drill and dig deeper. We are digging our graves. “
However, as the campaign groups have pointed out, the green transition strategies of many rich nations are based on a model characterized by the industrial-scale extraction of limited reserves of metals and minerals, leaving the production and consumption of raw materials unchecked. prime.
This includes a number of controversial new initiatives in the UK, including potential lithium mines in Cornwall Other a gold mine – where the “critical materials” of silver and copper can now be added to demand – at the Sperrin Mountains in Northern Ireland.
Last week, the UK posted his Net Zero: rebuild greener strategy, which would see the government “support the UK’s mining sector engagement in new and existing markets by facilitating investment and collaboration in mining and processing opportunities.”
Whitehall has also pledged to publish a “critical minerals strategy” in due course, which will illustrate how the UK will move closer to “protecting technology critical minerals and metals”.
Hal Rhoades, of the London Mining Network, said LFF that the quantities of such materials needed for the new “green” industry and a number of other unaccounted for sectors were not disclosed to the public at COP26.
He said: “COP26 has so far proved a stage for the UK government to advance its limited green credentials with the announcement of flagship initiatives to end deforestation by 2030, among others.
“What is less clear is how exactly these goals will be achieved when the UK’s plans to tackle the climate crisis build on the rapid and massive expansion of mining of minerals and metals.
“The business-as-usual scenarios projected by the likes of the World Bank and the International Energy Agency predict that we will have to drastically increase the extraction of minerals and metals such as lithium, copper and tin to meet future demand from sectors including renewable energy, heavy industry and military.
“This means expanding the ecological, social and climatic damage caused by the mining of minerals and metals, which already accounts for at least 10% of global carbon emissions, is the industry’s most lethal to environmental defenders and is becoming more prone to disasters “.
Mining of new and established commercial materials remains a lucrative sector for British financiers. According to Revenue Watch, there are 362 mining and oil companies currently listed on the London Stock Exchange, with a combined market capitalization of over £ 1 trillion.
Much of the emphasis at COP26 was placed on new fossil fuel mining initiatives, such as the proposal for a new coal mine in West Cumbria and diagrams of the Cambo oil fields.
A series of announcements that promise to ending the financing of new fossil fuel projects abroad, with phasing out of coal, were made yesterday at the summit.
But activists say the demands for resources and energy needed for new forms of low-carbon industry, as well as for some sectors that exist in the future – the military, for example, continues to be exempt from reporting and reducing its emissions – have so far been omitted from the Glasgow talks.
Rhoades added, “The latest scientific studies warn that a market-driven, mining-intensive transition risks destroying so much biodiversity – and with it the climate-regulating functions of the biosphere – that it could substantially undermine the benefits of decarbonising the system. energy using extracted minerals and metals.
“The UK Government’s new Net Zero strategy states that the UK will support the UK’s mining sector engagement in new and existing markets by facilitating investment and collaboration in mining and processing opportunities.
“This likely means that the UK will look to expand inland mining to regions such as Cornwall and Northern Ireland, while providing even greater diplomatic and financial support to London Stock Exchange listed mining companies operating on the London Stock Exchange. abroad, even in pristine and climate-critical ecosystems such as Ecuador’s rainforests and the deep sea. “
The Yes to life, the No to the mining network will be host a Cop26 discussion which deals with “green extractivism” this Sunday, during which a number of speakers from communities at the forefront of mining development around the world will share their perspectives on the subject.
Tommy Greene is a freelance journalist
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