New Supplies of Critical Materials Will be Crucial for Clean Technology Transition

Avalon Rare Metals, Inc. is pleased to provide commentary on the recently concluded 2015 Paris Climate Conference and the implications of the agreement reached for critical materials demand.

After a two week conference and over four years of lead-up negotiation, 195 countries agreed to adopt the Paris Agreement to jointly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change. Signatories have committed to limit temperature rises “well below” 2˚C compared to pre-industrial times, while striving to limit temperatures to 1.5 degrees. Furthermore, it has been agreed that individual countries will maintain and publish greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. The foremost action needed to make this commitment a reality is a massive reduction in the use of fossil fuels for transportation and energy production with a corresponding shift to clean technology enabled by Government policy initiatives, supported by public and private investment.

Lithium Ion rechargeable battery technology will play a leading role in enabling the required energy storage solutions. High purity specialty engineered lithium chemicals are vital to this technology, but they have few current supply sources. Lithium chemicals are just one example of the numerous new critical material demands presented by clean technology and energy development.

Goldman Sachs recently released a report titled, The Low Carbon Economy: GS Sustain equity investor’s guide to a low carbon world 2015-2020, to coincide with the conference which states that 2015 will be a “watershed year” for low carbon technologies and one that could have a significant impact on the lithium-ion battery supply chain and its critical raw materials lithium, graphite and cobalt. They believe that congregating forces of political support, economic viability, and the need for new industries and jobs, is “tipping the scales” and taking the “training wheels off of the low carbon economy”.1

While the Paris Agreement is not the first addressing this issue, many believe the desire, capacity and environment for change is now different. Stewart Elgie, an environmental law and economics professor who chairs the climate think tank Sustainable Prosperity, notes that, “There is much more economic momentum behind this [Agreement]. […] Technology has also matured, making renewable electricity and electric cars more commercially practical today than they were in the 1990s.” He also noted that the biggest challenge for the success of the Paris Agreement will be energy storage.2

Countries like Canada have made serious commitments to invest in clean technologies and green infrastructure to support and implement policies that move their economy towards a low carbon future. As the Canadian Government has stated, “Canada views climate change not just as a challenge, but as an historic opportunity to build a sustainable economy.”

We have also seen almost all of the world’s leading economies and numerous private sector business leaders announce the creation of Mission Innovation, which seeks to double government investment over the next five years in clean energy research and development, and to spur business investment in clean technology.

In summary, the policy desires, and ultimately investment, from the world’s leading economies and governments are now committed to focusing on the clean technologies of the future. Private investment has and will inevitably follow as technology creates the solutions on clean energy. This transition of the world’s energy economy will not be possible without technology metals such as lithium, indium, tantalum and rare earth elements. New supply sources will continue to be necessary to feed the clean energy transition with the necessary critical materials.

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