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A Critical Matter (Evans, Santoro, Stuermer)

A Critical Matter by Christopher Evans, Marika Santoro, and Martin Stuermer published by IMF (12/2023).

“A scramble by competing powers to secure strategic minerals could add to price pressures and increase the costs of the climate transition. New trade restrictions in commodity markets more broadly have doubled since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as producers impose curbs on shipments. Critical minerals used to make everything from electric vehicles (EVs) to solar panels and wind turbines are highly vulnerable to more severe trade restrictions. A slide toward opposing trading blocs could substantially delay the energy transition.

Even without the added complication of geopolitically motivated export controls, countries will need unprecedented supplies of critical minerals to stave off the worst effects of climate change and reach net zero emissions. The International Energy Agency predicts that demand for copper will need to grow by a factor of 1.5, for nickel and cobalt to double, and for lithium to increase six times by 2030 (Chart 1). This will drive up prices and could make these minerals as important as crude oil for the world economy over the next two decades (Boer, Pescatori, and Stuermer, forthcoming). Why are critical mineral markets particularly vulnerable in the event of fragmentation? And what could be the impact on the energy transition?…”

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