Climate Change and Mining: a Foreign Policy Perspective

Mining is a sector that is particularly vulnerable to climate change

The growing number and impact of these kinds of extreme weather events has led to increasing awareness in the extractives industries of the potential negative impacts of climate change. The industry has started thinking about its own vulnerabilities and the risks climate change could pose. However, while there has been research on the role of the extractives sector as a major emitter of green house gases, there has been little research and debate that takes a more comprehensive look at the links between climate change impacts and mining. The report Climate Change and Mining. A Foreign Policy Perspective tries to fill this gap by shedding some light on these links and providing an overview of the complex challenges around extractive resources in the context of climate change.

It argues that foreign policy makers should pay more attention to the links between mining and climate change because

  • the mining sector is one of the major emitters of greenhouse gases and it produces fossil energy resources that also significantly contribute to global CO2 emissions,
  • mining is a sector that is particularly vulnerable to climate change,
  • mining is a significant contributor to the development of many countries around the world, in particular many developing and emerging economies, and
  • developed, industrialised economies are dependent on functioning supply chains and security of supply of the resources that drive their economies.

These links pose significant risks not only for the extractives sector, but also the larger economy that are shared by resource-dependent and resource-rich countries.

Against this background, foreign policy should take a more active role in addressing these risks and engage with the extractives sector as part of its climate diplomacy efforts. Based on an analyses of current policy approaches and initiatives, the report provides four recommendations and policy options:

1) Climate-proof critical minerals policies and security of supply strategies that up to now have largely neglected climate risks

2) Actively contribute to improving social and environmental standards in the extractives sector to address climate risks and augment the resilience of the sector

3) Support national and regional dialogues on responsible mining to increase transparency, improve consultations for prior decision-making and prevent conflicts

4) Proactively use extractives as a topic for climate diplomacy to link climate change to the broader development discourse of a country or region.

Together these actions could form the starting point for a more strategic climate diplomacy approach towards mining.