Being able to achieve a sustainable, circular and low carbon value chain for batteries has the potential to keep global warming within the limits set by the Paris Agreement on climate change.
Dominic Waughray, Head of the Platform for Global Public Goods and Managing Director at the World Economic Forum, said that modern batteries are powering the 4th industrial revolution. They have the prospect to reduce the world’s carbon footprint, this will be a game changer for many of our dirtiest economic activities.
According to the world economy forum report, 10 million high-quality jobs could be created by investing in the battery value chain. The majority of these would be in emerging economies. Furthermore, this technology would provide electricity to 600 million people for the first time. To have such an impact we have to invest 550 billion dollars over the next 10 years. The current battery industry has to be expanded by 19 times. By doing this we could increase the productivity of the batteries, lower the costs, and cut the greenhouse gas emissions along the the battery value chain. To achieve all this, a huge expansion in mining would be needed. Annual extraction of minerals by 2030 would weigh more than 300 Great Pyramids of Giza. Some 120 additional battery state-of-the-art factories would also need to be operational to meet required demand.
The Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors of BASF and Co-Chair of the Global Battery Alliance, Martin Brudermüller, said: “We need to develop a sustainable, circular and low carbon value chain for batteries to contribute to the implementation of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement and to reach the UN Sustainable Development Goals. But this task can only be achieved by effective cooperation between businesses, international organizations, governments and civil society,”
To make batteries sustainable from an environmental and human perspective, the entire value chain must be “circular”, by reusing, repurposing or recycling batteries at the end of their life cycle. In the future recycling could provide 13% of global demand for cobalt, 5% of nickel and 9% of lithium, but these shares are expected to grow as the volume of batteries reaching their end of life surge after 2030.
There is a potential for batteries to significantly reduce the world’s carbon footprint, create jobs, improve energy access and working conditions for those working in the industry. Unfortunately all this will not be realized if the value chain develops along its current trajectory, the report finds.
The current annual growth of 25%, is not sufficient to help meet the Paris Agreement goals. We also must be aware of the fact that an uncoordinated growth could even worsen the climate crisis.