November 03, 2022

The Geopolitics of Deep-Sea Mining and Green Technologies

By Jocelyn Trainer

For the first time, the International Energy Agency is reporting that global demand for fossil fuels will peak or plateau in the next decade as the world transitions to renewable energy. This is a welcome development ahead of the 27th U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP27), which includes a focus on the “promise of innovation and clean technologies” to mitigate the climate crisis. However, there is often a disconnect between the prospect of green technologies and the reality surrounding the minerals and materials required to produce them.

Demand for exploiting minerals on the seabed is rising. But the hasty development of a DSM regulatory framework could heighten geopolitical competition and environmental degradation.

As demand for fossil fuels levels off, renewable energy sources will occupy a larger and larger percentage of the total demand for the minerals involved in their creation. Within the next two decades, the IEA predicts that renewable energy technology will make up over 40 percent of the demand copper, 60 to 70 percent for cobalt and nickel, and 90 percent for lithium.

To avoid the tremendous social and environmental costs of land-based mining, nations — including China and the United States — are turning towards the ocean floor to secure the materials for their renewable energy needs through a process called deep-sea mining.

Read the full article from USIP.

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