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UN Report: Projected surge in global resource extraction by 2060 poses heightened climate change risks

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The UN’s Global Resource Outlook report anticipates a significant 60% surge in worldwide raw material extraction by 2060, posing grave implications for exacerbating climate change, according to findings seen by the Guardian.

Driven partly by the push towards renewable energy, the extraction of natural resources currently accounts for 60% of global heating activity, encompassing land use changes, and contributes to 40% of air pollution. Moreover, over 90% of global water shortages and biodiversity loss linked to land use are attributed to the mining sector.

In a recent presentation to EU ministers, ahead of the report’s official release later this month, it was revealed that natural resource extraction has skyrocketed by 400% since 1970, driven by industrialization, urbanization, and population growth.

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Janez Potočnik, former European Commissioner and co-chair of the UN panel behind the analysis, cautioned that the projected surge in raw material extraction could lead to more frequent and severe weather events and climate disasters.

The report will recommend measures to curtail overall extraction and consumption of critical raw materials, which could impact the development of clean energy technologies. This is significant, as technologies like electric vehicles (EVs) demand substantial quantities of critical minerals.

Despite the carbon-intensive nature of mining for energy transition minerals, research indicates that EVs are generally less polluting than fossil fuel-powered vehicles. A study by Germany’s Federal Environment Agency suggests that electric cars registered in 2020 were approximately 40% more climate-friendly than gasoline-powered cars.

Potočnik stressed the importance of complementing efforts to clean the supply side with demand-side measures, such as promoting remote working, enhancing local services, and encouraging low-carbon transport options like bicycles and trains.

Zakia Khattabi, Belgium’s Climate and Environment Minister, emphasized the need for stronger EU policies on the circular economy, with a focus on demand-side measures and ensuring a just transition to address the interconnected environmental challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution.

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