By SDG Watch Europe
The European Union must align its new transition minerals legislation, including the Critical Raw Materials Act, with the principles of respecting human rights and leaving no one behind if it is to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
The extraction of mineral resources impacts the core elements of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. There is a connection between mining and almost all 17 thematic areas, including climate change, water and food crises, systemic poverty, conflict, well-being, and inequality (Owen et al., 2022).
Surely, it is commendable that European Green Transition aims to accelerate the switch from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy. The green transition, however, if done wrong, can bring more problems than solutions because it pushes for exponential expansion of mining in Europe and beyond.
Because renewables need a huge amount of minerals.
Where are the minerals for the green transition located?
According to recent research, at least 54% of Energy Transition mining takes place on or near Indigenous Peoples’ lands, and if peasant lands are included, this proportion increases to 69% (Owen et al., 2022). Across the globe, both groups are already suffering the consequences of climate change.
Currently, the EU green transition does not ensure that Indigenous Rights are respected when sourcing minerals.
Neither the battery regulation nor the Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD) or the Critical Raw Materials Act (CRMA) includes Indigenous Peoples’ right to Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), as outlined in the United Nations Declaration on Indigenous Peoples’ Rights (UNDRIP).
UNDRIP, although non-binding, is the clearest affirmation of Indigenous Peoples’ rights in an international instrument. FPIC, as an expression of the right to self-determination, is the most crucial safeguard for Indigenous Peoples in relation to mining activities and projects affecting their territories.
To achieve the SDGs and leave no one behind, there is a pressing need that the European Union’s emerging legislation adopt robust Due Diligence, including the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent requirements to protect indigenous communities and prevent a repetition of the mistakes of the past.
Indigenous Peoples and a number of organisations worldwide and the European Civil Society have called on European policymakers to make the EU green transition truly sustainable and just, by, among other things, including Indigenous Peoples’ rights in the Critical Raw Materials Act.