White paper: Critical materials, green energy and geopolitics: a complex mix

The Green Deal, formulated by the European Union, comprises climate targets that are as ambitious as they are all-important. It aims to reduce net emissions of greenhouse gasses to zero by 2050, without depleting resources and leaving no person or region behind.

white paperIt is a responsibility that politicians, policy makers and administrators must face during an ongoing energy crisis and a rise in geopolitical tension.

Multidisciplinary perspectives for sustainable solutions

Seven scientists from the Leiden-Delft-Erasmus Universities wrote the whitepaper ‘Critical materials, green energy and geopolitics: a complex mix’, offering science-based knowledge and strategies for achieving these aims. The paper has now become available.

From fossil fuels to rare earth metals

The paper describes the energy transition as a switch from fossil fuels to metals such as iron, copper, lithium and rare earth metals. These metals are needed for producing the required wind turbines, solar panels, electrolysers and batteries, making them critical materials for achieving the energy transition.

rene kleijn
Dr Rene Kleijn. Photo: Barbra Verbij

Currently, the Netherlands and the EU must import the bulk of these materials, making us dependent on other countries.

Dr René Kleijn, of the Leiden-Delft-Erasmus Centre for Sustainability that initiated the paper, asked scientists from various disciplines to share their vision.

Kleijn: ‘We discuss the current circumstances regarding access to these raw materials by the Netherlands and the EU, and how we can establish a strong and independent basis for the energy transition.’

The paper consists of seven interviews with:

•     Dr Rene Kleijn – Institute of Environmental Sciences, Leiden University
•     Dr Benjamin Sprecher – Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering, TU Delft
•     Dr David Peck – Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment, TU Delft
•     Dr Jojo Nem SinghInternational Institute for Social Studies, Erasmus University Rotterdam
•     Professor Ester van der Voet – Institute of Environmental Sciences, Leiden University
•     Professor Olindo Isabella – Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science, TU Delft
•     Dr Ronald Huisman – Erasmus School of Economics, Erasmus University Rotterdam


The costs of raw materials independency

The researchers express their concerns regarding the feasibility of the energy transition in the current geopolitical context – discussing market deficiencies and market strengths as well as the real financial and social costs of realising an independence from imported raw materials.

They stress the need for immediate action – offering historical lessons, opportunities for the recovery and reuse of raw materials, and new financial mechanisms as potential solutions for reaching our green targets.

   We address the major challenges of our time by integrating the knowledge of various scientific experts and professional specialists

elise blondel
Dr Elise Blondel. Photo: Barbra Verbij

Dr Elise Blondel of the Leiden-Delft-Erasmus Centre for Sustainability, who coordinated the paper, emphasises the importance of a broad perspective for addressing the challenges of the energy transition.

‘The Centre for Sustainability facilitates interdisciplinary research and education, unlimited by the boundaries of specific professional domains. We address the major challenges of our time by integrating the knowledge of various scientific experts and professional specialists. This way, we hope to accelerate the transition towards a circular economy.’

> You can read the whitepaper online here (in English or Dutch).
> Download the complete white paper, find the PDF attached under neath this article.

For more information, you can contact Dr Elise Blondel, coordinator of the Leiden-Delft-Erasmus Centre for Sustainability Circular Industries Hub: e.h.m.blondel@cml.leidenuniv.nl. Press: contact Katja Hoiting, communications manager Leiden-Delft-Erasmus Universities: k.hoiting@tudelft.nl

Critical Materials_LDE White Paper_DEF20220627.pdf (4.81 MB)

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