Climate Week NYC brings together global leaders, activists, NGOs and corporations from around the world to discuss the most pressing environmental issues, serving as a gauge of progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). During this year’s SDG Summit, it was revealed that only 15 percent of SDGs were on track for 2030 targets, emphasizing the pressing need for action. Key events like Climate Week NYC and the Concordia Annual Summit, alongside the UN General Assembly and SDG Summit, centered discussions on accelerating action.
One major area of focus was the clean energy transition and the increasing demand for critical minerals, such as copper, that are essential to global decarbonization technologies. Events highlighted the importance of these minerals in addressing climate change, as they play a vital role in technologies crucial to renewable energy and electric transportation, as well as the burgeoning digital revolution in automation, AI and smart technologies. At the Concordia Annual Summit and the Climate Week NYC events, sessions emphasized the need to balance environmental concerns with the demand for these minerals, as well as the importance of fostering sustainable mining practices to reduce negative impacts on ecosystems and communities.
A Recommitment to Sustainable Development
In the evolving global landscape, critical minerals continue to play a vital role in achieving the SDGs by 2030. During the opening session of the UN General Assembly, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called for the adoption of the political declaration of the United Nations High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, A/HLPF/2023/L.1, reaffirming governments’ commitments to these goals and emphasizing the significance of “our resolve to realize our vision of a world with access to … affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy, sustainable industrialization and quality, resilient, reliable and sustainable infrastructure for all.” The declaration was adopted unanimously during the Summit.
Critical minerals, such as copper, are necessary to realize these ambitious goals. Copper is essential to green technologies with the potential to abate up to two-thirds of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and is a key material for renewable energy, electric vehicles, energy storage, electrification and other solutions that contribute to reducing emissions and fostering a more sustainable world. Climate Week NYC and the UN General Assembly facilitate multilateral discussions on responsible sourcing and use of these minerals to ensure the realization of global goals, aligning with the growing mandate to expedite these solutions and increase demand for the materials enabling them.
Key Themes for Critical Minerals
Call to Accelerate the Clean Energy Transition
During Climate Week, the International Energy Agency (IEA) released its update of the Net Zero Roadmap. Despite pessimism over the SDG agenda progress, the IEA states that the path to a global 1.5 degree target, in line with the Paris Agreement, is still possible specifically as a result of the increasing implementation of clean energy technologies around the world.
The central theme of the week revolved around accelerating the clean energy transition, encompassing increased use of renewable energy, electrification, and rapid decarbonization. In line with Climate Group’s Climate Week theme, “We Can, We Will,” discussions emphasized responsibly and sustainably scaling solutions to meet rising demand.
As the Industry Sponsor of Climate Week NYC, the International Copper Association (ICA) enabled a myriad of discussions that covered topics from balancing energy security and sustainability to accelerating electric vehicle adoption in the global south and integrated energy systems.
At the core of these discussions lies the surging demand for critical minerals like copper and the imperative to enhance supply chain resilience and energy security. Copper’s demand is projected to double by 2050. During the Concordia Annual Summit, ICA hosted a panel titled “Critical Minerals—Building Blocks of Decarbonization,” where ICA’s Regional Director for North America, Andy Kireta, emphasized the need to expand access to these materials through recycling and mining.
Focus on AI and Digital Revolution Increasing Demand for Critical Minerals
Another key focus was the increasing reliance on artificial intelligence (AI) and the rapid expansion of the digital revolution. The global adoption of these new technologies, including the need for new data centers, will continue to drive demand for critical minerals, such as copper.
For instance, a tonne of copper empowers 40 cars, energizes 100,000 mobile phones, operates 400 computers, and provides electricity to 30 homes. Copper plays a role in various applications, from semiconductors and electric motors to smart home tech and self-driving car automation systems. As an exceptional heat and electricity conductor, it enhances the energy efficiency of electronics. Within the complex technology value chain, copper is just one element among over 75 in a mobile phone, emphasizing the necessity of collaboration among industry, policymakers, local communities and consumers to ensure material access.
Sustainable and Responsible Supply Chains and Mining Practices are Needed to Meet Demand
While mineral availability for these vital technologies was central, addressing industry emissions and environmental impact were equally important. Sessions such as “Mining for Sustainability” at the Concordia Annual Summit or discussion series on the “New Industrial Revolution” at Climate Week covered topics from circular mining practices and nature-based solutions to the decarbonization of mining processes.
The message across the sessions was clear: producers should continue to develop measures that reduce environmental impact, conserve biodiversity and respect the rights of local communities. Efforts should be made to minimize water consumption, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote a circular economy that includes efforts like recycling, reducing pollution and reusing waste at the mine site. Simultaneously, these discussions offered industry representatives a platform to share insights about modern mining practices and decarbonization efforts with original equipment manufacturers, sustainability experts and global leaders, demonstrating ongoing commitment to responsible contributions to the clean energy transition and digital revolution. The call for partnership was the uniting factor among these major themes as it is recognized as the true catalyst for global change.