Europe needs to drastically increase the recycling of metals used in electric cars and renewable energy sources if it is to meet its goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050, says a new study.
The study by the Belgian university KU Leuven found that achieving the EU’s “Green Deal” goal will require 35 times more lithium and up to 26 times the amount of rare earths that are increasingly scarce than that used by Europe today. .
It will also require much larger annual supplies of aluminum (equivalent to 30% of what Europe already uses today), copper (35%), silicon (45%), nickel (100%) and cobalt (330%).
These metals are essential for Europe’s plans to produce electric vehicles and batteries, for renewable wind, solar and hydrogen energy technologies, and for the grid infrastructure needed to achieve climate neutrality.
However, the EU still relies on imports from Russia, China and Indonesia for much of the metal it needs, and the study warns that “there is growing concern about security of supply.”
“Europe must urgently decide how to close its looming primary metal supply gap,” said lead author Liesbet Gregoir.
“Without a decisive strategy, it risks new dependencies on unsustainable suppliers”.
Electric vehicles and batteries require far more lithium and rare earth metals than the EU uses today
Global demand for metal by raw material for clean energy technologies in a STEPS scenario (Stated Policies Scenario) and SDS (Sustainable Development Scenario) respectively
Metal supplies needed to achieve the EU’s climate neutrality target
The study says that by 2050, Europe’s plans to produce clean energy technologies annually will require:
- 4.5 million tons of aluminum (a 33% increase compared to today’s use)
- 1.5 million tons of copper (35%)
- 800,000 tons of lithium (3,500%)
- 400,000 tons of nickel (100%)
- 300,000 tons of zinc (10-15%)
- 200,000 tons of silicon (45%)
- 60,000 tons of cobalt (330%) e
- 3,000 tons of rare earth metals neodymium, dysprosium and praseodymium (700-2,600%)
The EU aims to be carbon neutral by 2050, reducing greenhouse gases to a level where the amount produced is balanced by the amount removed from the atmosphere.
The 27-nation bloc also wants to wean itself from dependence on Russian oil, coal and gas by increasing the amount of energy generated domestically from renewable resources.
But the expansion of clean technologies will require substantial inputs of raw metals.
Europe currently imports most of its aluminum, nickel and copper from Russia, which is currently embroiled in a deadly war with Ukraine.
Meanwhile, China and Indonesia, which depend on coal energy for metal production, are expected to dominate the global markets for battery metals and rare earths.
If Europe is to meet its climate and social goals, it will need to find external suppliers with better environmental and rights records, the report said.
If, on the other hand, it wants to become less dependent on external sources, Europe will have to open new mines and mineral refineries.
There is “theoretical potential” for new mines to supply between five and 55 percent of the continent’s raw metal needs, the report said.
But projects must be started now if they are to be operational on time.
Meanwhile, investments in refining are hampered by the energy crisis in Europe and the surge in fuel prices.
The EU wants to get rid of dependence on Russian oil, coal and gas by increasing the amount of energy produced domestically from renewable resources
The study concludes that “recycling is Europe’s best opportunity to improve its long-term self-sufficiency”, noting that metal recycling saves between 35% and 95% CO2 compared to producing primary metals. .
He says Europe could be self-sufficient for 40-75% of its clean energy metal needs by 2050 if it invests heavily in recycling infrastructure now and cuts red tape.
The locally recycled metals could produce “three-quarters of the cathodes for European-made batteries, all of its plans to produce permanent magnets and significant volumes of aluminum and copper.”
“It is a step forward that our clean energy system will be based on permanent metals that can be recycled indefinitely, compared to today’s constant burning of fossil fuels.”
However, he warns that the bloc “must act vigorously now to increase recycling rates, invest in the necessary infrastructure and overcome major economic bottlenecks.”
However, recycling “will not provide a viable EU source of supply for electric vehicle batteries and renewable energy technologies in Europe until after 2040”, the study clarifies.
“These applications and their metals have just been released to the market and will not be available for recycling for the next 10-15 years.”
“We are on a fast track to climate disaster”: cursed UN report warns that greenhouse gas emissions must peak by 2025 at the latest to limit global warming to 2.7 ° C
To meet the ambitious goal of limiting global warming to 2.7 ° F (1.5 ° C), global greenhouse gas emissions must peak by 2025 at the latest, a new UN report has warned. .
The United Nations Intergovernmental Group on Climate change (IPCC) says there is a “short and fast closing window of opportunity” to limit warming by 2100.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions need to be cut by a whopping 48% by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050 if we are to hit the target, according to the report.
Meanwhile, methane emissions need to be cut by a third by 2030 and nearly halved by 2050.
As it stands, we are currently on track for global warming of 5.7 ° F (3.2 ° C) by 2100, with devastating consequences for “all living things,” according to the IPCC.
‘We are at a crossroads. The decisions we make now can ensure a liveable future. We have the tools and know-how to limit warming, “said IPCC President Hoesung Lee.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres described the report as a “shame file” and warned that we are on a “fast track to climate disaster”.