The Paradox of the Green Energy Revolution: Does Chinese Cobalt Mining in the Democratic Republic of the Congo Undercut Benefits of Green Energy?

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Date

2023-05

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The Ohio State University

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A quick, sustainable, and just transition to green energy sources from fossil fuels is vital to avoiding the worst impacts of climate change. The International Labor Organization defines a just transition as "greening the economy in a way that is as fair and inclusive as possible to everyone concerned, creating decent work opportunities and leaving no one behind." To mitigate the years of high greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from wealthy and industrializing countries which have disproportionately impacted poorer, more vulnerable countries, a just transition is essential. The impacts of these high emissions include, but are not limited to, flooding, typhoons, hurricanes, earthquakes, mudslides, and desertification. Recognizing this, a new emphasis has been placed on sustainability in the last decade. Vital to this transition are batteries made from cobalt that go in electric vehicles (EVs), wind turbines, and solar panels. The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is home to an estimated 70% of the world's cobalt deposits of which China controls around 80%. China produces over half of the world's cobalt-containing lithium-ion batteries powering the green energy transition. Growing importance of lithium-ion batteries calls for an in-depth look at the actual sustainability of cobalt mining and its supply chain before labeling battery power as clean energy.

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Democratic Republic of the Congo, China, Geopolitics, green energy, sustainability, mining

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