PARIS (AFP) – Europe should act quick to safe provides of essential metals required for a green energy transition and its greatest wager is to recycle, a report mentioned on Monday (April 25).
The 27-nation EU goals to be “carbon neutral” by 2050 – decreasing greenhouse gases to a stage the place the quantity produced is balanced out by the quantity faraway from the environment.
The bloc additionally desires to wean itself off dependence on Russian oil, coal and fuel.
To this finish, it’s looking for not solely to use much less energy but additionally to improve the quantity of energy generated domestically from renewable sources.
That contains producing electrical autos and batteries, bringing in more wind, photo voltaic and hydrogen applied sciences, and creating infrastructure to distribute this clear energy.
But increasing clear applied sciences would require substantial inputs of uncooked metals and – in preliminary levels not less than – a lot of this may most likely have to be imported, in accordance to the examine by Belgium’s KU Leuven college.
To carry carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions down to “net zero” by 2050, the EU will want “35 times more lithium” than it makes use of in the present day and “seven to 26 times the amount of increasingly scarce rare earth metals”, the “Metals for Clean Energy” report mentioned.
The energy transition may also require far better annual provides of aluminium, copper, silicon, nickel and cobalt.
Invest now in recycling
Europe might be self-sufficient for 40 per cent to 75 per cent of its clear energy metallic needs by 2050 if it invests closely now in recycling infrastructure and cuts crimson tape, mentioned the report, commissioned by the European affiliation of metallic producers and recyclers, Eurometaux.
For now, the EU stays import-dependent for a lot of those metals and, the examine warns, “there is growing concern about the security of supply”.
“Europe needs to decide urgently how it will bridge its looming supply gap for primary metals. Without a decisive strategy, it risks new dependencies on unsustainable suppliers,” mentioned lead creator Liesbet Gregoir.
China and India, which depend on coal energy for metallic manufacturing, are set to dominate international markets for battery metals and uncommon earths. Europe depends on Russia in the present day for aluminium, nickel and copper.
If it’s to meet local weather and social objectives, Europe will want to discover exterior suppliers with higher environmental and rights information, the report mentioned.
If, alternatively, it desires to grow to be much less reliant on exterior sources, Europe will want to open new mineral ore mines and refineries.
There is “theoretical potential” for brand new mines to present between 5 and 55 per cent of the continent’s uncooked metallic needs, the report mentioned.
But tasks want to get going now if they’re to be operational in time.
Meanwhile, investments in refining are being stymied by Europe’s energy disaster and hovering gasoline costs.
The examine concludes that “recycling is Europe’s best chance to improve its long-term self-sufficiency”, noting metals recycling produces considerably much less CO2 than main metals manufacturing.
By 2050, domestically recycled metals may produce “three quarters of Europe-made battery cathodes, all its plans for permanent magnets production and significant volumes of aluminium and copper”.