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This one-day interdisciplinary workshop will explore the role of rare earth elements (REEs) in green technological developments and in transitioning towards renewable energy through the lens of ‘just transitions’. By adopting a global perspective grounded in social justice and by examining issues across the REE supply chain, we will critically assess the trade-offs, injustices and challenges entailed in the extraction and processing of REEs in the green transition. The workshop is part of a British Academy funded project called Rare Earths in the Just Transition: Connecting Global Inequalities in REE Commodity Chains which aims to explore and facilitate discussion about the complexities of reliance upon REE by considering what the just transition looks like at different points along the commodity chain. You can find our recently published British Academy report hereLink opens in a new window.
In moving towards a just energy transition, we need to consider where the materials needed for green technologies are coming from, how they are extracted and produced, and what this means for global environmental justice. In this workshop, acknowledging the diverse meanings and visions of just transitions, we will engage with a range of voices, perspectives and knowledge bases on REEs and green technologies. By sharing knowledge across diverse backgrounds and perspectives, we aim to move beyond siloed thinking and to consider how and if a more integrated framework for thinking about REE in the just transition is possible. Through discussions in this conference, we are planning to develop an edited volume or a Special Issue related to REEs and the just transition.
The workshop will investigate the environmental, regulatory, social and rights-based issues surrounding the development of REEs in the green transition across multiscalar layers of interest. We will make connections between the global dimensions of REE supply, notably relating to North-South relations and global inequalities, and the experiences of REE source communities facing similar yet distinct social and environmental burdens. We will then consider the governance and legal questions surrounding REE supply chains: how the extraction and production of REEs can be managed, regulated or re-oriented to ameliorate their social and environmental impacts. We will ask questions about the most effective and equitable paths forward for REE production in the energy transition, whether this be through reduced reliance on such minerals, the development of REE recycling technologies and practices, more socially and environmentally responsible forms of critical mineral mining or something else entirely.