What if we can’t balance people and planet?

What if we can’t balance people and planet?

Click on each metal to see the demand, projected out to 2050, required to develop the low-carbon technology necessary to meet the Paris Agreement, what the metal is used for in the low-carbon economy and the percentage of covered* and identified* mines that were involved in an environmental or human-rights controversy while producing the respective metal.

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*Covered and identified mines as those mines operated by companies in the MSCI ACWI Investable Markets Index. The projected demand was calculated by the World Bank Group and Extractives Global Programmatic Support using assumptions made by the International Energy Agency (IEA) on what technology would be required to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (2D), as spelled out in “The Growing Roles of Minerals and Metals for a Low Carbon Future.” Scenarios for energy storage are not explicitly included in the IEA’s Energy Technology Perspectives’ 2015 scenarios, so they were taken from other peer-studied assessments listed in “The Growing Roles of Minerals and Metals for a Low Carbon Future.” Projected demand assumptions did not include metal recycling. Controversies are taken from MSCI ESG Research’s database of company controversies, as of December 2019. Source: World Bank Group, Extractives Global Programmatic Support, IEA, MSCI ESG Research LLC

The U.N. Paris Agreement on climate change set a policy target to keep global warming at less than 2 C above “pre-industrial” levels, with an aspirational 1.5 C limit. Meeting that goal requires a shift in our current infrastructure from carbon-intensive to carbon-neutral technologies that rely on the key metal shown above. For example, all lithium-ion batteries require copper. But the production and procurement of this and other metals can involve dangerous and exploitative working conditions and harm the environment. While there are some mines that uphold ESG standards and produce these vital materials without the damaging offsets, the underlying conundrum is emblematic of the kinds of challenges and conflicts we are increasingly facing.

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