Politics for energy security or a geopolitical struggle for power? : A thematic text analysis of EU policy making of critical metals for renewable energy

University essay from Linköpings universitet/Tema Miljöförändring

Abstract: This thesis analyses EU policy making on critical metals for renewable energy technologies, with a focus on Rare Earth Elements (REEs) and cobalt. A thematic text analysis on EU documents published between 2010-2018 was conducted to identify themes and patterns in the EU debate and policy-making. The results showed that the EU has a clear objective to secure access to critical metals, to reduce import dependency and increase competitiveness on the market for critical metals. The key strategies to secure access to metals are to increase primary supply by increased domestic mining and by investing in countries with large reserves of critical metals; to improve recycling rates of these metals; to find substitution metals to replace the critical ones; and to focus on resource diplomacy. Environmental and social risks from an increased demand for REEs and cobalt gain little attention in the studied documents. Geopolitical risks are concluded as linked to the dependency on import from a few producing countries, China for REEs and DR Congo for cobalt, and are mainly focused on risks affecting the EU access to the metals. The struggle over resources and related geopolitical interactions are concluded to be affected by historical and existing global power structures. Further, the thesis concludes that EU resource diplomacy aims at facilitating for the EU to remain a powerful and competitive actor on the global market for trade of critical metal.

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