The University of Queensland
Sir James Foots Building
Sustainable Minerals Institute
Level 4 Seminar Room
St Lucia

Location Map

Renewable energy is now considered one of the best means of bringing global emissions within the 1.5 degrees limit for sustainable life on Earth. While this is an imperative technical response to climate change, the true cost of renewables needs to be investigated. Renewable technology relies on carbon, rare earth minerals, and other materials to produce energy although minerals and metals receive comparatively little attention compared with the much-reduced renewable technologies’ carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions (Nguyen and Sovacool 2014; Amponsah et al 2014). There has been little focus on their other environmental costs, and even less attention paid to their social impacts, which may replicate fossil fuel extraction. Moreover, as with scholarship on supply chains for minerals (Auld et al 2018), less attention has been paid to their end of life (Gerbinet et al 2014), despite increasing recognition of problems with both dumping and recycling renewable technology (Xu 2018; Goe and Gaustad 2016). This seminar seeks to interrogate the governance gaps and accountability traps of the global shift to renewable technology in two ways. First, it provides an analysis of the life-cycle and global supply chain of three renewable technologies: onshore wind, solar photovoltaics (PV), and lithium-ion batteries. Second, the project examines the governance blindspots on their environmental and social costs and how to mitigate them by investigating the current regulation on all aspects of renewable technology: from their extraction, production, trade, use, disposal and recycling. We analyse existing transnational governance initiatives and accountability mechanisms established by state, private, and non-state actors onto the global supply chain to examine their capacity to reconcile the costs of renewables with their use. In light of the geopolitical context and longstanding relationship of these minerals to conflict, human rights violations, and environmental degradation, there is an urgent need to examine what accountability exists for the spillover effects of extraction, processing, using and recycling of key mineral resources, and what regulations are required to mitigate harm in a future that is even more mineral intensive than the present. We recognize the imperative for renewable energy but argue that transnational governance must transcend the technocratic paradigm driving contemporary demand for renewables by reckoning and accounting for their social, economic, and environmental costs.

Susan Park is an Associate Professor in International Relations at the University of Sydney. She focuses on how state and non-state actors use formal and informal influence to make the Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) and global governance greener and more accountable. Susan has published in numerous journals, most recently in the Review of International Political Economy. Her new book is International Organisations and Global Problems: Theories and Explanations (Cambridge University Press, 2018). Previously Susan served as the Chair of the Environmental Studies Section of the ISA from 2015 to 2017. She is a Senior Hans Fischer Fellow at the Technical University of Munich (2019-2022), a Senior Research Fellow of the ESG, an affiliated Faculty member of the Munk School’s Environmental Governance Lab at the University of Toronto, an External Associate of the Centre for the Study of Globalisation and Regionalisation at Warwick University, and a research affiliate of the Sydney Environment Institute at the University of Sydney.


About Other Events

The UQ Energy Initiative is much more than only our Energy Exchange Industry Engagement, and Energy Express Seminars! Please check this space regularly for other events that may be of interest to you.