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Article

31 Oct 2021

Author:
Aisha Majid

Climate change cannot be addressed through a lens that perpetuates harm

"Can we mine our way to a greener future without sacrificing human rights? Climate action shouldn’t be at the expense of human rights", 28 Oct 2021

At the end of this week... governments will gather in Glasgow for Cop26 hoping to move [towards]... a zero-carbon world by 2050. That a move away from fossil fuels to clean energy is needed to avoid the worst effects of climate change is widely accepted.... [L]ess well understood is how the mineral intensity of that transition could impact local communities and environments... Clean energy is much more mineral intensive... The International Energy Agency predicts that production of transition minerals will need to increase six times to achieve a zero-carbon world by mid-century... Mining our way to a greener future, however, puts a sector long associated with environmental damage and abuses of human rights at the heart of the transition. “The extractive sector as a whole is, unfortunately, almost synonymous with human rights violations,” said Jessie Cato of the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre... [L]arge proportions of minerals key to the transition are located in fragile countries... Cato is worried that human rights abuses will increase. Impacts related to water... are particularly likely to escalate in indigenous communities. These communities are set to “bear the brunt, while also already feeling impacts of climate change on water supply”, she said... [M]ining compan[ies] can potentially reduce those risks by managing them proactively... Some extractive companies are working with renewables companies. Tesla and... Glencore, China Molybdenum and Eurasian Resources Group are piloting a system to trace cobalt that ends up in electric vehicles... [S]ome countries and regions have developed... human rights due diligence laws... “This will make companies much more accountable to human rights abuses within their supply chains,” said Cato.... “Climate change is the biggest threat to human rights, but we cannot address climate change through a lens that perpetuates harm.”