Climate Change

New Initiative Aims to Protect Vital Minerals for Clean Energy Shift, Without Disregarding the Less Fortunate

The UN Secretary-General on Friday launched an initiative focusing on ensuring fairness, sustainability, and respect for human rights throughout the entire process of sourcing and using critical minerals needed for the clean energy transition.

The newly established Panel on Critical Energy Transition Minerals brings together a diverse group of governments, organizations and UN bodies to develop a set of common and voluntary principles to protect environmental and social standards aimed at embedding justice in the energy transition.

A world powered by renewables is a world hungry for critical minerals,” Secretary-General António Guterres said at the launch of the Panel.

For developing countries this new demand presents a big opportunity to create new jobs, diversify economies, and dramatically boost revenues, he continued, stressing that this requires effective management.

The race to net zero cannot trample over the poor…the renewables revolution is happening, but we must make sure that it is done in a way that moves us towards justice,” he added.

Mr. Guterres had announced his plan to set up the Panel at the COP28 climate summit, held in Dubai in early December. It is expected to provide initial recommendations ahead of the high-level General Assembly Week in September. 

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Skyrocketing demand

As the climate emergency worsens, demand for minerals vital for renewable energy technology such as solar panels, wind turbines and electric vehicles (EV), is soaring.

For instance, lithium is required to manufacture high efficiency batteries, electronics and EVs, with demand expected to rise by over 1,500 per cent, according to the UN Trade and Development body (UNCTAD).

Similar increasing demand is anticipated for nickel, cobalt and copper.

The rising demand could be a big boost for many developing countries, especially in Africa – which boasts over a fifth of the world’s reserves for a dozen metals essential to the energy transition.

Cornerstone of UN’s response

Mr. Guterres highlighted that developing countries cannot be relegated to the bottom of the clean energy value chain – merely as suppliers of basic raw materials.

“Little wonder that resource-rich developing countries are calling for urgent action to ensure that they, and their communities, benefit from the production and trade of critical minerals; and that people and nature are protected,” he said.

The UN chief offered the Organization’s full support for the new panel.

This work is extremely complex, but the world cannot wait,” he said.

Panel membership

The Panel is co-chaired by Ambassador Nozipho Joyce Mxakato-Diseko of South Africa and Director-General for Energy Ditte Juul Jørgensen of the European Commission.

Its members include Australia, Botswana, Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Egypt, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Namibia, South Africa, United Arab Emirates (UAE), the United Kingdom (UK), Viet Nam, Zambia and Zimbabwe, alongside the African Union (AU), the European Union (EU), UN and intergovernmental entities, and non-governmental organizations.



  1. Does the initiative include specific measures to ensure that developing countries have equal access to these critical minerals for their energy transition needs?

    1. Yes, the initiative aims to address the disparities in access to critical minerals by developing principles that promote fairness and sustainability throughout the sourcing and usage process. It recognizes the potential of renewable energy to benefit developing countries through job creation and economic diversification, emphasizing the importance of effective management to ensure a just energy transition.

  2. As a passionate environmental advocate, I wholeheartedly support Secretary-General António Guterres’ initiative to ensure that the clean energy transition does not harm the most vulnerable communities. It is crucial that as we move towards a renewable energy future, we prioritize environmental and social standards to promote justice and fairness for all. Kudos to Mr. Guterres and the Panel on Critical Energy Transition Minerals for taking this important step towards sustainability and equality.

  3. The new initiative is commendable. It is crucial to ensure that the clean energy transition considers social and environmental aspects. I believe that the principles developed by the Panel on Critical Energy Transition Minerals will help promote fairness and justice in this transition towards renewables.

  4. As a renewable energy enthusiast, I believe initiatives like this are crucial for ensuring a sustainable and just transition towards a cleaner future. It’s essential to prioritize environmental and social standards in extracting critical minerals while also uplifting developing countries through job creation and economic diversification. Mr. Guterres’s emphasis on moving towards justice in the renewables revolution is spot on.

  5. As a strong supporter of clean energy initiatives, I applaud the UN Secretary-General’s new initiative. It is crucial to ensure that the clean energy transition is not only sustainable but also fair and respects human rights. Developing principles to protect environmental and social standards will play a vital role in achieving a just energy transition. I agree with Mr. Guterres that the shift towards renewables should benefit all, including developing countries that can seize this opportunity to enhance their economies and create new job opportunities.

  6. As a supporter of clean energy initiatives, I applaud the UN Secretary-General’s efforts to prioritize fairness and social justice in the critical minerals sector. Developing countries stand to benefit greatly from this transition, but it’s crucial that we ensure it uplifts the less fortunate and does not exploit them. Let’s hope this new initiative paves the way for a sustainable and equitable clean energy future.

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