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Climate Change and Mining: A Foreign Policy Perspective

The growing number of extreme weather events has led to increasing awareness in the extractives industries of the negative impacts of climate change. This report looks into the links between both.
Climate change and mining


The growing number and impact of extreme weather events has led to increasing awareness in the extractives industries of the potential negative impacts of climate change. The mining industry has started thinking about their own vulnerabilities and the risks climate change could pose. However, there has been little research and political debate that takes a more comprehensive look at the links between climate change and mining. “Climate Change and Mining. A Foreign Policy Perspective” tries to fill this gap by shedding some light on these links and providing an overview of the complex challenges around extractive resources in the context of climate change.

This report* argues that foreign policy makers should pay more attention to the links between mining and climate change because (1) the mining sector is one of the major emitters of greenhouse gases and it produces fossil energy resources that also significantly contribute to global CO2 emissions, (2) mining is a sector that is particularly vulnerable to climate change, (3) mining is a significant contributor to the development of many countries around the world, in particular many developing and emerging economies, and (4) developed, industrialised economies are dependent on functioning supply chains and security of supply of the resources that drive their economies. These links pose significant risks not only for the extractives sector, but also the larger economy that are shared by resource-dependent and resource-rich countries.

Against this background, foreign policy should take a more active role in addressing these risks and engage with the extractives sector as part of its climate diplomacy efforts, the authors argue. Based on an analyses of current policy approaches and initiatives, the report provides several recommendations and policy options.

Suggested citation: Rüttinger, Lukas and Vigya Sharma (2016) Climate Change and Mining. A Foreign Policy Perspective. Berlin: adelphi.

*downloadfrom the right-hand column.

In the report

  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • The climate footprint of mining
  • Vulnerability of the mining industry to climate change
    • Case study: Climate Change, Disasters and Mining in Central Queensland, Australia
  • Mining and Development
    • Case study: Mining-Climate-Livelihoods Nexus in Mongolia
  • Supply chain risks and Security of supply
  • The role of foreign policy
    • ​Recommendation 1: Climate-proof critical minerals policies and security of supply strategies.
    • Recommendation 2: Improve social and environmental standards in the extractives sector.
    • Recommendation 3: Support national and regional dialogues on responsible mining.
    • Recommentaion 4: Proactively use extractives as a topic for climate diplomacy.


In order to contribute to sustainable and inclusive development, the report propose four recommendations for foreign policy makers. These recommendations could form part of a more strategic foreign policy approach and a starting point for defining the role climate diplomacy can play in addressing the climate risks the mining sector faces:

  1. Climate-proof critical minerals policies and security of supply strategies: How climate change will impact individual mining areas is in most cases not included in criticality assessments. This gap in criticality assessments is mirrored in critical minerals policies and resource strategies that mostly do not include climate risks. To overcome this gap, climate change risks should be integrated into criticality assessments and also be included and reflected in critical minerals and resource policies based on these improved assessments. In general, these strategies should put more emphasis on long term security of supply strategies. To further engage the private sector, foreign policy makers could also support and encourage the industry to address supply chain risks more pro actively by supporting international knowledge hubs for supply chain monitoring.

  2. Improve social and environmental standards in the extractives sector: There are an increasing number of standards and initiatives to enhance the sustainability of the sector. These are a good starting point to address climate risks and augment the resilience of the sector as a whole and afford an opportunity for foreign policy makers to take a more proactive role in improving global social and environmental standards. This would include promoting the ratification and implementation of existing international conventions and standards that are important for the extractives sector, implementing these standards at home and supporting the implementation as part of bilateral and multilateral development cooperation. Foreign policy makers can also seize the opportunity and point towards governance gaps and argue for the review of existing or the creation of new standards. The goal would be to advance the normative framework through soft instruments that carry authority and provide more guidance along with harder legal instruments that set mandatory standards for advancing the ideal of a global level playing field with higher standards for everybody.

  3. Support national and regional dialogues on responsible mining: The extractives sector can – if responsibly managed – contribute to economic growth and development. Yet, it is often accompanied by the risk of the resource curse and conflicts with other sectors and population groups. Dialogue forums, transparency initiatives, consultations prior to decision-making and early information, for example in the form of independently conducted environmental and social impact assessments, can help to address many of these risks. The European Commission has been active in establishing dialogues with the EU’s strategic partners for raw materials, and Germany has established a number of “resource partnerships” with different countries. These partnerships and modes of engagement could be used to have a broader debate on the role of extractives in sustainable development. In addition, foreign policy makers can play an active role fostering national and regional dialogue processes through diplomatic campaigns and development cooperation, encouraging and supporting international organisations or initiatives to provide a forum for such dialogue processes and partner with academia, cultural or political organisations or foundations to foster dialogue.

  4. Proactively use extractives as a topic for climate diplomacy: The link between extractives and climate change cannot only provide an entry point for a larger debate on environmental and social standards in mining, but also a way to engage on climate change in general, in particular with countries that do not see climate change as a policy priority. Extractives are one way of linking climate change to the broader development discourse of a country or region. Conversely, in countries or regions in which climate change is already part of a larger discourse on how to transform economies and societies towards more sustainability, climate change impacts on the extractives sector could add another important perspective. In order to use the links between climate change and the extractives sector more pro actively as part of larger climate diplomacy efforts, foreign policy makers could identify clear narratives around the risks and opportunities of climate change and its impacts on the extractives sector for different countries and regions.

Suggested citation

Rüttinger,L., and Sharma, V. (2016). Climate Change and Mining – A Foreign Policy Perspective.Report: Climate Diplomacy.

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