Report: Batteries could cut global transport and power emissions by 30%

Power and transport collectively generate 40% of all man-made carbon emissions globally

For this reduction in emissions to be delivered – which would notably align the two sectors with the Paris Agreement’s 2C trajectory – the report’s author body, the Global Battery Alliance, claims that the global battery value chain would have to expand to 19 times its current size over the next 11 years.

The Global Battery Alliance states in the report, entitled ‘A Vision for a Sustainable Battery Value Chain in 2030’, that $550bn of cumulative investments would be needed to realise this growth and that such investments would need to be spread across the entirety of the battery value chain, from mineral extraction to waste management.

Key investment areas touted in the report are integrating batteries at grid-scale, increasing the productivity with which batteries are used and creating a circular economy for end-of-life batteries.

On the latter, the report notes that battery recycling, if properly supported by policy and infrastructure, could deliver 13% of the world’s demand for cobalt by 2030, with that figure standing at 9% for lithium and 5% for nickel.

Wider predicted benefits of growing the global battery value chain in line with the report’s recommendations are halving battery value chain emissions by 2030, putting the sector on track to achieving net-zero by 2050; the creation of 10 million jobs, with at least half in developing economies; the generation of a $150bn economic boost and the provision of electricity to 600 million people for the first time, in line with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7, Clean Energy for All.

“The vast potential of the global battery sector transcends boundaries across economies, industries and geographies,” the Global Battery Alliance’s co-chair Benedikt Sobotka said.

“Harnessed appropriately, it may help meet the 2C goal of the Paris Agreement and create millions of safe jobs, and also alleviate poverty and tackle ethical issues in the most vulnerable communities.

“This opportunity should be seized upon but, as this landmark report highlights, it is only through coordinated, collaborative action that we can achieve our collective global sustainability ambitions.”

Battery barriers

While the battery value chain is expected to grow annually by 25% over the next decade, the Global Battery Alliance’s leading body, the World Economic Forum, claims that this level of growth is not rapid enough to align the global transport and power sectors with the Paris Agreement. Collectively, these two sectors account for 40% of annual global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Moreover, the body is concerned that this growth will create more resource, human health and ethical issues than it solves if left unchecked without policy and business interventions.

On resources, batteries used in the transport space are typically warrantied for less than 15 years and considered hard to recycle, even though they contain high proportions of recyclable and high-value metals. Indeed, some scientific research has begun to suggest that the growing global demand for electric vehicles (EVs) and electronic devices could bring about a worldwide cobalt shortage in the coming decades.

As for human and ethical issues, technology is regarded as the most at-risk sector for modern slavery in supply chains.

In order to tackle these issues, along with emissions, as the sector grows, the Global Battery Alliance has included ten key recommendations for policymakers, investors and businesses, all aimed at fostering a “circular, sustainable and responsible” battery value chain, in its report. The recommendations are:

  • Implementing design and systems for life extension and end-of-life treatment.
  • Implementing Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) technologies at scale.
  • Scaling up sharing and pooling models for e-mobility.
  • Increasing the share of renewable energy and energy efficiency measures in the battery value chain.
  • Accelerating the roll-out of EV charging infrastructure.
  • Adjusting regulation for battery-enabled renewables as a dispatchable source of electricity for the grid.
  • Financing the sustainable expansion of the battery industry and supporting value creation and economic diversification in local communities.
  • Ensuring consistent performance and transparency based on established sustainability norms and principles along the value chain to improve the social, environmental and economic performance of batteries.
  • Establishing integrated GHG disclosure and emission regulations.
  • Supporting the deployment of batteries for energy access.

Sarah George

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie