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We can’t mine our way out of the climate crisis! Real action is needed at COP26

Val Croft

Communications Lead

[Updated to add Publish What You Pay statement released Nov.1] The science is undeniable. If our world has a hope of limiting global warming to 2℃ and avoiding even greater climate catastrophe, we must limit our consumption of fossil fuels — and fast. But the rush towards the energy transition can’t mean business as usual.

From November 1-11, global leaders will gather at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland to further define the whos and the hows of the global energy transition. We know that previous conferences have failed to meet the urgency of climate change. Now, what we need are clear and enforceable commitments to a just and equitable energy transition that don’t repeat the mistakes of the past.

It’s estimated that 3 billion tons of mined metals and minerals will be needed to power the energy transition, with much of it going towards solar and wind power (and the energy grids to sustain them) and batteries to electrify the transportation industry. This represents a massive increase in mining, with an emphasis on six critical minerals: lithium, graphite, copper, cobalt, nickel, and rare earth minerals. The Canadian government is currently racing other jurisdictions in promoting itself as the go-to destination for responsible mining, competing to attract investment and build the mines that will fuel the energy transition.

We can’t continue using the same extractivist logic that got us here in the first place. We can’t mine our way out of the climate crisis! That’s why MiningWatch Canada is joining grassroots and civil society organizations from around the world in calling on global leaders to take meaningful action at COP26. They must urgently implement measures to reduce material and energy demand in industrial and agricultural production, including transport, and to reduce overconsumption in wealthy countries. We need a transition to renewable energy sources that keeps minerals in the ground where possible and moves away from irresponsible mining by:

  • Centring the human rights of Indigenous, frontline communities, and workers at mining, recycling, reclamation, manufacturing and renewable energy projects, by prioritizing the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent, including the right to withhold consent as aligned with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
  • Prioritizing low-impact circular economy solutions that reduce the overall demand for primary metals such as reuse, reduction, recycling, and design for disassembly while ensuring health and safety protections for workers and communities.
  • Ensuring responsible minerals sourcing at existing mining operations through legally binding regulations to protect human rights, the environment and sacred sites at the state and international level; demanding mandatory human rights due diligence and adherence to all legal requirements; and stringent international environmental and human rights standards with independent, third-party verification of compliance.
  • Implementing transformative, rather than merely technological, solutions that shift away from disposable consumption and private transportation to more equitable access to services and low-carbon public transit.

Read the full declaration on mining and the energy transition here.

MiningWatch also joins more than 400 groups world wide in signing a global civil society statement against nuclear power, recognising that in addition to being an expensive pipe dream when it comes to solving the climate crisis, even just the promotion of nuclear power helps prop up uranium markets – and uranium mining, which should instead be phased out and cleaned up, to the extent possible.

Finally, as members of the global Publish What You Pay coalition, we joined in the call to ensure that mining is subject to rigorous transparency requirements when it comes to disclosing payments to governments to combat corruption and to pressure mining companies to pay more of the real cost of the minerals they extract.

Join us during key events at the parallel Peoples’ Summit for Climate Justice:

●      “Extractivist growth and alternatives from below: Why we can’t mine our way out of the climate crisis.” November 7 at 11:45 a.m. UTC (6:45 a.m. EST)

Voices from frontline communities and supporting organisations will come together to discuss ongoing injustices related to mining and its new presentation as ‘green extractivism’, and to discuss post-extractivist/post-growth perspectives which closely link the Global South and the Global North in solidarity and action.

MiningWatch is set to release an interactive map with Environmental Justice Atlas, documenting the impacts of mining for critical minerals on communities in the Americas.

Watch the recording: "Extractivist growth and alternatives from below: Why we can't mine our way out of the climate crisis"

●      ”We can’t mine our way out of the climate crisis: achieving a just energy transition for all” November 8 at 2 p.m. UTC (9 a.m. EST) Frontline communities, mineworkers and environmental justice activists will explore the connections between their struggles for an inclusive just transition. The session will focus on actions, pathways and policies to highlight the need to join in solidarity across global renewable energy supply chains at COP26 and beyond.

MiningWatch staff Ugo Lapointe joins other panelists in talking about actions, pathways and policies to highlight the need to join in solidarity across global renewable energy supply chains at COP26 and beyond, towards a democratic and just renewable energy future for all. 

Watch the recording: "We can't mine our way our of the climate crisis: achieving a just energy transition for all"

●      “Pacific Perspectives: deep sea mining is not an answer to climate change” November 9 at 8.pm. UTC (3 p.m. EST) Over 1.5 million square kilometres of ocean floor in the Pacific Ocean is already under deep sea mining exploration leasehold. Promoted as necessary to mine for transition minerals and metals for climate action, it is poised to be the largest mining operation in history. Join this session to hear Pacific voices from the frontlines who are standing up, resisting, and mobilising against deep sea mining.

MiningWatch is active in the campaign for a global moratorium on deep seabed mining because of the key role of Canadian companies.

Watch the recording: "Pacific Perspectives: deep sea mining is no answer to the climate crisis"