• Satarla

UK Government's 10 Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution & the role of Critical Minerals

The Critical Minerals Association's Breakfast Chat on the 9th of February discussed the UK Government's recently announced Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution and the role of critical minerals in its delivery.


You can view the full video recording of the session on the CMA's website here, and a summary of the sessions is below.



The event was moderated by Jeff Townsend, Founder, Critical Minerals Association, and Satarla CEO, Sarah Gordon was one of the speakers, along with:

  • Professor Will Drury, Challenge Director, Driving the Electric Revolution at UK Research & Innovation (UKRI)

  • Dr. Jack Bedder, Director & Head of Research, Roskill

  • Caroline Messecar, Senior Reporter for Rare Earths and Electronic Metals, Argus Media

  • Dr Robert Pell, Founder and CEO, Minviro



Summary


The UK Government's Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution can be read here.

The plan focuses on increasing ambition in the following areas:

  • advancing offshore wind

  • driving the growth of low carbon hydrogen

  • delivering new and advanced nuclear power

  • accelerating the shift to zero emission vehicles

  • green public transport, cycling and walking

  • ‘jet zero’ and green ships

  • greener buildings

  • investing in carbon capture, usage and storage

  • protecting our natural environment

  • green finance and innovation

The ten point plan will mobilise £12 billion of government investment, and potentially 3 times as much from the private sector, to create and support up to 250,000 green jobs.

1) Is there anything missing from the Government's 10 point plan?


Dr Jack Bedder

It's a step in the right direction, there's some great material in there, but is it ambitious enough? Would more funding and ambition be required to achieve what is set out in the introduction - 'to enable our proud industrial heartlands to forge the future once again'? Not sure £12 billion is going to get us there. It needs to be the starting point for a much bigger conversation and policy platform.


Professor Will Drury

I think it provides a great framework to work with, but between now and 2025 we need to build on what we've started, and pinpoint where the big wins are. Look at how technology changes. We should try not to see this as the final answer, but as a stepping stone to achieve our goals.


Dr. Sarah Gordon Some points in the 10 point plan are nothing new - e.g. advancing offshore wind. There are other points that are more emotive, such as nuclear power, and the recognition that we need it as part of the energy transition. There are indirect sides, such as green finance - an area in which we can leverage our might in the global financial sector. What might be missing here is the food we eat and the carbon generated from this.

Caroline Messecar

There's no mention of manufacturing. Research & Development, innovation, and financial markets play to our strengths but the plan ignores our weaknesses, such as the strategic planning for the raw materials to build a manufacturing base.


Jeff Townsend

6 out of the 10 points are directly aligned to critical minerals supply chains. The supply chains available to the UK are not necessary aligned to this policy announcement - is this a view that is shared across the panel?



2) Is the announcement more advanced than the practical ability to deliver it?


Dr. Robert Pell

This is the case across many sectors around the world. You have transitioning infrastructure which will require different demands of raw materials where new supply chains need to be set up. So it's not a novel challenge for the UK, but it is a challenge that must be recognized.


Dr. Sarah Gordon

It's a chicken/ egg situation. You need to set out the vision and put in the demand for the supply chain to follow. However, promises or vision statements are sometimes a long way out of what is possible. The current list of critical materials changes depending on what we need. The list that we have this year is different to the one we will have in 3 years' time. Supply chain adjustment takes a long time - it can take 10 years or more to extract and process in a environmental, socially responsible manner


Professor Will Drury

There's also the carrot and stick dilemma. There's a benefit to doing this but there also needs to be a push through legislation or standards development to promote the right solution. How can we process these materials in an environmentally, sustainable way - not just by looking at the carbon emitted but at the total life cycle of carbon content?


Dr. Robert Pell

This captures what we do at Minviro, looking at life cycle assessments. It's not just looking at the supply chains but at the range of impacts as well. We don't want to offset carbon emissions by trading off biodiversity, water scarcity impacts and other impacts.

3) Can we achieve this direction as a country on the national level or are we linked to the international supply chain? Is there an ability for the UK to shorten the distance of its supply chain?


Dr. Jack Bedder

No modern supply chain is fully domestic. Even in China, which holds dominance of certain raw materials, materials are imported and foreign technologies/ capital is involved, so in reality no country acts fully in isolation. The key thing is that the UK can do a lot more to increase its role in critical material supply chains and perhaps reduce its import dependence. There are many other ways for the UK to get involved in supply chains beyond material transformation.

Caroline Messecar

We shouldn't be under any illusions on how far away we are from having supply chains doing all of this in the UK. We should address the manufacturing and processing aspects which seem to be missing from the plan.



4) When delivering this 10 point plan, do you think the Government has followed societal & downstream desires without really understanding the necessary supply chain to develop the components? Does this need to be better understood?


Caroline Messecar

We have just gone through a material science revolution. Every day we use highly engineered materials. I don't think we have caught up with the world of advanced materials that we're living in. To that extent it is understandable that the Government doesn't understand supply chains and their enormous complexity.


Dr. Robert Pell

There's also going to be significant competition for the lowest impact deposits around the world and if we are to transition to a low carbon economy then we need to compete for those low carbon deposits.


5) Are we in a race amongst our "friends'" to get supply chains in place?


Dr. Robert Pell

Absolutely. There are other regions competing in similar ways. Scandinavia has low carbon intensity electricity and are leveraging this to develop processing stages that were previously energy intensive. This allows them to create low CO2 impacts. This is the approach the UK should be adopting.


Dr. Sarah Gordon

Some races have already been won. China has executed its mineral strategy over the last few decades. We have to source sustainable deposits, but a lot of these are already mined or may be owned by somebody else


Caroline Messecar

Government is the only group who can produce this strategic plan. You cannot expect companies who need to protect their margins and grow to be responsible for looking at the overall picture and strategic planning. What the UK has lacked for a long time is this strategic plan.

Other points


Dr. Jack Bedder

The focus on the consumer is important - we need public proof that this transition to a lower carbon economy isn't just going to hit people in their pockets. That these plans can deliver tangible economic benefit, create new jobs, raise incomes, improve infrastructure. Expecting people to pay for 'green' products isn't going to float. We need a broader approach.


Dr. Sarah Gordon

The Circular Economy is fundamental to what we're doing. We should value the materials we dig up from the ground with higher regard than we currently do and look after them - once we have these materials we should make the best use of them, which is why it's important to look at developing low carbon intensive recycling processes. We have to view waste as a resource, design for recycling and develop technologies to do so. We have to start working on this now. How do you get research up to a higher level, beyond blue skies research, for it to be implemented at scale at an industrial level?


Dr. Robert Pell

We talked about the huge volumes of rare earths going into offshore wind turbines - this is an example of a potential recycling opportunity. Also we need life cycle assessments here as well, as a Circular Economy isn't necessarily inherently more environmentally friendly - some high grade mines which require little energy input might be better than some recycling routes.


Professor Will Drury

We need to look at processes for recycling that are not energy intensive - otherwise we're back to where we started. We need to invest in processes and have focused research on industrial problems. We need to pick what the UK is good at, can be good at and should be good at - because we can't do everything.

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