Client Alert: UN Secretary-General convenes new Panel on Critical Energy Transition Minerals

In April 2024, in a move to build trust and certainty towards harnessing the potential of critical energy transition minerals, UN Secretary-General António Guterres appointed a newly established Panel on Critical Energy Transition Minerals.  The Panel will be co-chaired by Ambassador Nozipho Joyce Mxakato-Diseko of South Africa and the European Commission’s Director-General for Energy Ditte Juul Jørgensen of Denmark.

The Panel has been established in a response to calls from developing countries for globally agreed guidance to safeguard environmental and social standards across the entire critical minerals value chain.  Speaking on the launch of the panel, UN Secretary-General António Guterres emphasised the importance of harnessing minerals for developing countries by highlighting the critical opportunity “to create jobs, diversify economies, and dramatically boost revenues” in a world “powered by renewables [and] hungry for critical minerals”.  He also noted the role of effective management to ensure a positive impact on all stakeholders as part of the race to net zero.

The Panel also responds to global energy goals agreed at COP28, where governments reached consensus to triple renewable energy capacity by 2030.  To do so, significant increase in critical mineral supplies will be needed, with the International Energy Agency predicting a 350 per cent growth in demand by 2030.

Alongside the African Union and the European Union, the Panel’s membership includes 24 countries including Australia, Canada, China, Chile, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Indonesia, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as 14 international organisations and other non-State members, including the World Bank, the OECD, the International Energy Agency and the International Council on Mining and Metals.


The United Nations’ newly established Critical Energy Transition Minerals Panel underscores the ongoing importance of mining for the clean energy transition.  It follows public statements by the United Nations Environmental Programme’s Executive Director in Riyadh earlier this year that the world “will need over three billion tonnes of energy transition minerals and metals to deploy wind, solar, energy storage and more” to stay below 2°C by 2050, as well as warnings from the OECD’s International Energy Agency that supply and investment plans for critical minerals fell well short of levels needed to support the clean energy transition.

As Volterra Fietta has previously reported, governments and private actors alike are paying increasing attention to the need to secure supplies of critical raw minerals, ranging from cobalt, lithium and rare earth elements to the steelmaking coal required to drive forward renewable energy.  In recent years, Australia, the UK, the US and the EU have all adopted critical mineral strategies in order to secure supplies and scale up domestic production.  Last year, the EU redesignated steelmaking coal on its list of critical raw materials, while Australia has considered a similar designation.  This reflects an unequivocal recognition of the fundamental difference between steelmaking coal (also known as metallurgical or coking coal) and thermal coal.  As its name suggests, steelmaking coal remains a crucial component of steelmaking processes required to deploy wind turbines and other clean energy infrastructure.  At the same time, following recent major legal developments, governments and private actors are increasingly pursuing deep sea mining to secure critical minerals for the clean energy transition.  Most notably, Norway and the Cook Islands have accelerated efforts to mine the seabed within their national jurisdiction.  At the international level, the International Seabed Authority (with nearly 170 member States) has granted over 30 mining contracts for the exploration of deep seabed minerals in the seabed beyond national jurisdiction.  Efforts continue at the International Seabed Authority to enable these contractors to move from exploration into exploitation, a process triggered at the specific request of the Republic of Nauru.  Working in partnership with States, significant opportunities exist for private sector actors to drive increasing investment into securing critical minerals both on land and in the deep seabed.

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