Achieving responsible extraction and sustainable use of energy transition minerals and metals


FOR: Future Minerals Forum, Riyadh

LOCATION: Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

My thanks to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the invitation to speak at this important Ministerial roundtable on future minerals.

The world is intensifying the energy transition, as clearly signalled by COP28’s call to move away from fossil fuels. To stay below 2°C by 2050, we will need over three billion tonnes of energy transition minerals and metals to deploy wind, solar, energy storage and more. This is a huge opportunity for developing countries with these metals and minerals to invest in sustainable development.

Long-term strategies are essential to secure supplies. To foster trust, just transitions and benefit sharing. To foster economic diversification. To produce value-add for producer countries and communities – rather than following colonial models, in which the benefits accrued to the global north. And, of course, to avoid pollution and biodiversity loss so that we can meet commitments under, for example, the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework and the Minamata Convention.

Crucially, we need to ensure that products are designed for repair, remanufacturing, recovery and recycling. Around 50 million tonnes of e-waste are generated each year, with less than 20 per cent recycled. UN research has shown that up to seven per cent of the world’s gold may be in this e-waste. Urban mining, as it is known, could reduce pressure on the environment by recovering these materials. Reduce pressure on people and communities who live and work under conditions incompatible with human dignity. Protect the rights and land of Indigenous Peoples. And ensure that these minerals can be used and reused far into the future.

It is encouraging that this forum is looking at how to create resilient mineral value chains. This shows that nations are committed to doing the energy transition right. The UN system is just as committed.

The UN Framework on Just Transitions for Critical Energy Transition Minerals is being shaped with the deep involvement of UNEP, UNIDO, UNDP, the UN Regional Economic Commissions, the Intergovernmental Forum on Mining, Minerals, Metals and Sustainable Development, the World Bank and others. At COP28, the UN Secretary-General announced a new Panel on Critical Energy Transition Minerals that will develop voluntary principles to guide extractive industries for just mineral transitions.

I also highlighted responsible mining and sustainable minerals and metals use as one of six areas for multilateral action in my report to the sixth UN Environment Assembly. I expect this issue to be high on the agenda when the assembly meets in Nairobi, in late February.


The task ahead of us now is to start translating our understanding of the issues into real change.

I ask that governments, today and in the months to come, consider how to strengthen and harmonize policy frameworks that encourage responsible extraction and sustainable and circular use of energy transition minerals.

I ask industry to work towards coherent standards and frameworks for responsible mining, developed in a multistakeholder setting and with credible verification mechanisms. This includes economic and social safeguards to manage health risks, promote gender and social justice and protect the human right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.

And I ask companies to ensure that they are buying responsibly sourced minerals and to start thinking hard about how to design their products for circularity. Both industry players and companies such as electric vehicle manufacturers can gain a market advantage by positioning themselves as suppliers or users of responsibly sourced metals and minerals. The minerals stock exchange established by Saudi Arabia can help by creating a space in which clean energy actors will have to purchase.

If we do all of this, we can ensure a lasting energy transition that slows climate change. Reduces air pollution. Protects nature. And allows developing nations to follow a peaceful path of growth and wealth creation that benefits all their people

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