UNEP’s “Critical Metals for Sustainable Technologies” to Make Use of Rare Earths and Other Metals

The report of “Critical metals for future sustainable technologies and their recycling potential” for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) aims at sustainable development of technologies to use indium, germanium, tantalum, platinum group metals (especially ruthenium, platinum, palladium), tellurium, cobalt, lithium, gallium, rare earths (including 16 elements) and other "high-tech metals" are classified as "green rare metals".

The UNEP is responsible for coordinating the UN's environmental activities and assisting developing countries in having environmentally sound policies and practices. UNEP was founded in 1972 by Canadian businessman and philanthropist Maurice Strong, its first director, following the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment. Its mandate covers a wide range of areas, including the atmosphere, marine and terrestrial ecosystems, environmental governance, and green economic development.

critical metals in focus image

UN has carried out a funding project entitled “Critical metals for future sustainable technologies and their recycling potential” in line with the activities agreed on in the Grant signed between UNEP and the European Commission and in relation to work on Sustainable Innovation. The basis for this study regarding contents is ToR “Proposal of sustainable innovation and technology transfer, industrial sector studies, including final draft Terms of Reference: Critical metals for future sustainable technologies and their recycling potential.”

The focus of this study lies on future sustainable technologies such as renewable energies and energy efficient technologies which will make use of Indium (In), Germanium (Ge), Tantalum (Ta), PGM (platinum group metals such as Ruthenium (Ru), Platinum (Pt) and Palladium (Pd)), Tellurium (Te), Cobalt (Co), Lithium (Li), Gallium (Ga) and RE (rare earths) and other ‘high tech metals’, also classified as ‘green minor metals’ which are the basis for cleaner technology innovation.

The first objective is to analyze in depth the global availability and expectations for the development of the critical metals' demand, supply and prices. Secondly, the study focuses on the comprehensive analysis of their recycling potential and moreover, the study will explore favorable framework conditions for critical metals recycling systems.

Examples for sustainable future technologies and needed metals image

The UNEP report lists 4 types of future sustainable technologies and the metals to be used. First, tantalum, indium, ruthenium, gallium, germanium, palladium, etc. must be used in power and electronic equipment technology. Second, gallium that must be used in photovoltaic technology, tellurium, germanium, indium, etc. Third, cobalt, lithium, and rare earths that must be used in battery technology. Fourth, platinum, palladium, and rare earth metals must be used in catalytic technology.