Yes to the ‘green revolution' – but without copper and nickel from the rainforest!

Montage: traffic sign with an electric vehicle in front of an open pit mine in the rainforest of Ecuador © CASCOMI - Collage RdR

Industrialized countries such as Germany have a ravenous appetite for metals and consume far more than is ecologically and socially sustainable. Now, electric vehicles are being touted as one of the solutions to the climate crisis – but many of the raw materials they use are being mined in the world's rainforests.

Call to action

To: the German federal government, the ministries for economic affairs, energy and the environment

“Germany and other industrialized countries need to drastically cut their consumption of raw materials and transition to a circular economy.”

Read letter

In Ecuador, thousands of hectares of Amazon rainforest are being cleared for the Mirador copper mine. Toxic waste from the open pit mine is polluting the region's rivers. The indigenous Shuar were not able to stop the mine with their protests and are now in danger of losing their livelihoods. The copper mined there is shipped to China, where it is processed into products such as the copper foil used in batteries for electric vehicles (EVs).

Meanwhile, 20,000 kilometers away, local people are protesting in Indonesia: On Sulawesi, rainforests and mangroves are being cleared for nickel mining and smelting. Nickel production waste is discharged into the sea, where it destroys coral reefs, marine life and the livelihoods of local fishermen. As a vital component in lithium-ion batteries, the nickel also ends up in EVs via China and South Korea.

Germany is one of the largest importers of metallic raw materials, and its automotive industry – the flagship of its economy – is one of the main consumers. The materials going into EVs are mined at a great cost to the environment and human rights in the global South, processed and shipped in worldwide supply chains. And the boom in EVs is only just beginning: demand for copper for EVs is predicted to rise from 208,000 tons in 2017 to 1.91 million tons in 2030 – a more than nine-fold increase in only 13 years!

We cannot consume our way out of the climate crisis by simply buying EVs. Nor will all the other problems of individual mobility such as traffic jams, noise and accidents be reduced by putting millions of new EVs on the road.

We need to reject the dogma of limitless economic growth. We need to reduce, reuse and recycle. We need bold new mobility concepts – and the transition from combustion engines to EVs is only one piece of that puzzle.

Together with our partner PowerShift, we are calling on the German government to change the course of Europe's largest economy: Germany and other industrial countries must transition to a circular raw materials economy and put innovative mobility concepts in place immediately.

Letter

To: the German federal government, the ministries for economic affairs, energy and the environment

Ladies and gentlemen,

Germany is one of the largest consumers of metallic raw materials, including copper and nickel. Their extraction has been associated again and again with massive human rights violations and serious environmental damage. Mining is one of the greatest threats to the world's ecosystems, including the last remaining rainforests, coral reefs, rivers, oceans and biodiversity hotspots.

Furthermore, mining and the processing of ores are responsible for around 11 percent of global CO₂ emissions and are therefore a driver of the climate crisis.

We therefore call on the federal government, and above all the ministry of economic affairs, which is responsible for questions of raw materials policy, to take active steps to reduce Germany's consumption of primary metals. We demand:

1.) a significant reduction in the consumption of raw materials extracted by mining

2.) clear and measurable reduction targets for raw material consumption in the mobility and transport sector by 2030

3.) the immediate implementation of a circular economy, including clear specifications for durable, repairable and recyclable products

4.) climate protection, respect for human rights, and protection of the environment and biodiversity – such as rainforest conservation – must take priority over securing the supply of raw materials for industry.

Yours faithfully,

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