Reject the extractive EU Green Deal

Editor’s note: This article, which originally appeared in The Ecologist, clearly shows the strong contradiction between the bright green hope of a transition to “green energy” and the material reality. The dirty secret of “Green energy” is that it requires a lot of rare resources which have to be extracted by heavy mining.


By Hannibal Rhoades

Communities, organisations and academics write to the EU to reject plans for a mining-heavy EU Green Deal.

A global coalition of more than 180 community platforms, human rights and environmental organisations and academics from 36 nations is calling on the EU to abandon its plans to massively expand dirty mining as part of EU Green Deal and Green Recovery plans.

The EU policies and plans will drastically increase destructive mining in Europe and in the Global South if left unchanged, which is bad news for the climate, ecosystems and human rights around the world, the coalition explains.

“The EU is embarking on a desperate plunder for raw materials,” says Meadhbh Bolger, the resource justice campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe.

Transition

“Instead of delivering a greener economy, the European Commission’s plans will lead to more extraction beyond ecological limits, more exploitation of communities and their land, and new toxic trade deals. Europe is consuming as if we had three planets available.”

The signatories – coordinated by the European Working Group at the Yes to Life, No to Mining campaign – are united in support of an urgent and rapid transition to renewable energy.

However, they argue that relying on expanding mining to meet the material needs of this transition will replicate the injustices, destruction and dangerous assumptions that have caused climate breakdown in the first place.

Threats

“The EU growth and Green Deal plans must consider a deep respect of the rights of affected communities in the Global South, that are opposing the destruction of their lands, defending water and even their lives,” said Guadalupe Rodriguez, the Latin American contact person for the global Yes to Life, No to Mining solidarity network.

“A strong collective voice is arising from affected communities around the planet, denouncing hundreds of new mining projects for European consumption. Their urgent message needs to be heard in the North: yes to life – no to mining.”

Yvonne Orengo of Andrew Lees Trust, which is supporting mining affected communities in Madagascar, added: “Research shows that a mining-intensive green transition will pose significant new threats to biodiversity that is critical to regulating our shared climate. It is absolutely clear we cannot mine our way out of the climate crisis.

Circularity

“Moreover, there is no such thing as ‘green mining’. We need an EU Green Deal that addresses the root causes of climate change, including the role that mining and extractivism play in biodiversity loss.”

The statement sets out a number of actions the EU can take to change course towards climate and environmental justice, including recognising in law communities’ Right to Say No to unwanted extractive projects and respect for Indigenous Peoples’ right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent.

Joám Evans, from the Froxán community in Galicia, said: “Communities fighting at the frontlines of extraction are forcing minerals to stay in the ground. This is critical for helping us take circularity seriously and rethink the ideology of growth. Communities have a right to say no and will enforce it regardless of greenwashing, corruption and repression.”

Realign

Other recommendations take aim at EU overconsumption of minerals and energy, calling for binding targets to reduce EU material consumption of materials in absolute terms and for  just de-growth strategies, not ‘green growth’ or ‘decoupling’, to be placed at the heart of EU climate and environmental action.

Diego Marin of the European Environmental Bureau concluded: “Simply put, we need to drastically reduce the amount of resources used and consumed in the EU and move to truly circular solutions.

“Legislation like the EU battery regulation is a step in the right direction, but must go further. Transport decarbonisation, decarbonisation of all kinds, in fact, can only be achieved with a strong reduction in demand. We need to realign our priorities to meet climate goals.”


This Author

Hannibal Rhoades is YLNM contact person for Northern Europe and head of communications at The Gaia Foundation (UK).

3 thoughts on “Reject the extractive EU Green Deal”

  1. I literally laughed out loud when I read “green mining,” which is a phrase right up there with “consensual rape.”

    But it’s encouraging to see serious discussion about the imperatives of reduced consumption and “de-growth.” I’ll never understand how the supposedly “intelligent” species on rhis planet got the idea that success is measured by how much we can consume, rather than by how little. It’s no coincidence that the only species causing a mass extinction is also the only one that exploits nature, instead of living in harmony with it.

  2. Second reading afterthought: If mining opponents are truly “united in support of an urgent and rapid transition to renewable energy,” which renewable energy is it that doesn’t require mining?

    The EU currently gets most of its lithium from Finland, with a mine similar to tje one proposed at Thacker Pass, which has a life expectancy of 25 years. And all-electric vehicles would require 5 such mines, plus new mines every 20 years of so.

    Most of the world’s 7.8 billion people now live in cities, which require constant importation of food and other materials that cannot be carried in by magic. I agree with a move to bicycles and mass transit. But even bikes with bamboo frames require chains, sprockets, gears, and pedals, all of which come from extracted materials. Ditto the massive infrastructure required to move this “renewable” energy to cities — AND the fossil fuel or nuclear backup plants for when it isn’t sunny or windy. Then there are the huge numbers of non-recyclable, non-biodegradable, plastic solar panels and wind turbines, which have to be replaced every 25 years, etc., etc.

    To even approach “renewable” energy from a distance would require cities with NO power when it isn’t windy or sunny, which means long periods of blackouts and cold nights. And Hannibal Rhoades has not a word to say about population reduction.

    The truth is that we only survive by either a rapid die-off of 90% of the human population, or 200 years of a global one-child policy. That means 200 years of nuclear or nano-lithium power (the latter being a feasible but currently non-existent technology), followed by a world of no more than 750 million people, with ZERO electricity other than hydro, and a worldwide return to village life. And what politician is going to order 7.8 billion people to stop having children, and return to the horse-and-buggy lifestyle of 150 to 250 years ago?

    The harsh reality is that A MASSIVE HUMAN DIE-OFF WILL OCCUR in the coming decades, driven by devastating climate change, aquifer exhaustion, mass famines, food riots, and resource wars.

    And how many decades from now will this be? The Ogalala aquifer, which supplies most of the water to America’s breadbasket, will be out of water in 10 years at current use rates, with most of the world’s aquifers in a similar state. This translates to a global food export shutoff, with mass famines in much of Africa and Latin America, and most of Asia.

    (For reference, watch “Hunger Pandemic — The Catastrophic Cost of Excess,” at NHK World 2030, originally broadcast May 1, 2021.)

    1. “What politician” indeed. That’s precisely why I say that this is a battle for the hearts & minds, not a political or physical battle. If we can’t get people to PRIORITIZE all life on Earth and the Earth itself over having as many kids as they want, lifestyles (which includes agriculture), and having needless stuff, then it’s over.

      To be clear, if I had to guess, I’d say it’s almost certainly over. It’s the 9th inning, we’re losing 10-0, there are two outs and nobody on, and we’re down to our last batter. I never give up hope and there’s always a chance until it’s actually over, but the chance of reversing this mess before massive collapse of just about everything is extremely slim.

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