As I walked into COP28 in the United Arab Emirates, there was a charged atmosphere. An urgent sense that the world needs to roll up their collective sleeves to tackle climate change and to limit global temperature rises to I.5˚C – a goal we are currently off track to meet. And as I was admitted to the Blue Zone – reserved only for UN accredited visitors and speakers – this feeling of ‘now or never’ grew stronger.
Just a decade ago it might have been unfathomable to think that a mining company would be asked to speak at a ‘Conference of the Parties’ to address the challenges of climate change. But in 2023, there’s an increasing understanding that to achieve Net Zero, we need Critical Raw Materials (CRMs) from under the ground – to power the world’s green journey to low carbon economies. And therefore, that mining is an integral part of our cleaner energy future. As long as it’s done in the most socially ethical and environmentally friendly way possible.
Here are four key points I made during my speech at COP28 in the Parliamentary Pavilion – on progress since the Paris Agreement, fossil fuel phasing out, clean energy capacity and climate action funding – plus, an additional point on global security that was a key part of discussions in the UAE.
1. COP21 commitments – and Norway
In the words of the UN Secretary General, António Guterres: “We are miles from the goals of the Paris Agreement – and minutes to midnight for the 1.5-degree limit. But it is not too late.” A pertinent theme of COP28 has been to ascertain what progress countries have made towards meeting the goals set out in the Paris Agreement of 2015, vis-à-vis limiting global temperature increases.
Norway – where Norge Mining’s EU CRM deposits lie – has committed to a 90–95% greenhouse gas emissions reduction below 1990 levels by 2050. However, the country’s continued oil and gas production is hindering the achievement of Net Zero emissions by 2050, given the large-scale exporting of downstream emissions. This, despite most of its domestic energy production being generated by hydropower.
We believe that Norge Mining has the capability to transform Norway’s industrial profile and help shift focus away from high emitting commodities with significant impacts along the value chain. Our production in Norway will release far fewer emissions than comparable mining projects outside Europe – while complying with the highest environmental standards. And our proximity to European industrial and clean tech centres will also ensure short transportation distances.
2. Fossil fuel phasing out…
At this years’ UN climate negotiations in the UAE, more than 2,400 registered participants are linked to coal, oil and gas – that’s four times more than attended last year’s gathering. It’s understood that fossil fuel producers must be part of the solution – as negotiations turn to how to phase down or phase out the use of CO2-emitting coal, oil and gas. As Jean Paul Prates, CEO of Brazil’s state-run oil company Petrobras put it, «We are big guys, and we can do big things. We can deliver results and we will have to report them very soon.»
Norway leads the world on electric vehicle adoption thanks to government support and regulation. It is on track to achieve its 2025 phase out of new internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle sales well ahead of schedule. But we need CRMs to supply the batteries required for EVs and for static electricity storage around the world. And that’s where our deposits come in. They contain an abundance of three CRMs which have multiple renewable power capabilities – phosphate, vanadium and titanium. These are needed for solar panels, wind turbines and energy-efficient lighting and renewable energy storage – as well as electric vehicles.
3. Clean energy capacity
On Day 3 of COP28, leaders from more than 110 nations committed to a joint effort to triple global renewable energy capacity by 2030. And yet, if we are to generate vast amounts of renewable energy, we need to be able to store it. Put simply, to transition from fossil fuels, countries need to vastly scale up their clean energy capacity – to an industrial level. These technologies require materials that Norge Mining has vast deposits of. Like vanadium and phosphate.
Vanadium Redox Flow Batteries are scalable, safe, don’t degrade and have infinite life cycles – making them perfect powerhouses to store vast amounts of renewable energy. Similarly, lithium iron phosphate batteries (LFPs) are already used for static energy storage, as well as increasingly in Electric Vehicles.
4. Funding climate action
If there’s one overriding theme COP28 will be remembered for, I believe it’ll be climate finance. In just the first five days, the UAE hosts said more than $83 billion had been mobilised. By the time you read this, that figure will no doubt have risen. As the COP28 President, Dr. Sultan Al Jaber explained, «Finance plays a critical role in turning our ambitions into actions».
Without adequate funding, Net Zero across the world is a pipe dream. The trillions needed will come in the form of contributions from developed countries, including the private sector. Much of this needs to be redirected towards low-carbon ends.
However, climate protection and profitability are not mutually exclusive. There is a perceived incompatibility of ethical and regulated mining standards with providing price-competitive and abundant volumes of raw materials – such as those that are currently being imported from regions with more relaxed standards like Asia, Latin America and Africa. Norge Mining can be a beacon of light for a new model of sustainable natural resources development that is both profitable and responsible.
5. Global security
Meanwhile, a further topic that stood out at the climate negotiations, was food security – and how food is becoming more integral to the security and peace of our nations. So much so, that it’s believed to be one of the greatest challenges of our times.
And of course, when nations don’t feel safe, the spectre of conflict is raised. In warfare – or even in anticipation of it – countries need arms. And for that they require access to metals and CRMs – like titanium. Therefore, as these insecurities grow in the world, the significance of our deposits increases.
Low carbon future
COP28 comes to an end on 13 November 2023. But I believe mining’s role in the energy transition is only just beginning. For the world to move to low carbon economies, we need valuable minerals and metals from below the Earth’s surface. According to BlackRock (the world’s largest asset manager), the quantity of metals needed for the monumental shift to an environmentally sustainable economy has been vastly underestimated. On this, The Financial Times recently led an article with this headline: “BlackRock warns investor disdain for mining threatens green transition.”
In my opinion, mining for CRMs is a key enabler of a greener future – and it is my hope that the world now turns ambitions to action when it comes to the global climate challenge.