A European Environment Agency (EEA) report dated August 30 2021 has illuminated the impact of raw material extraction and processing on emissions.
Following climate-friendly practices has significant potential to cut greenhouse gas emissions in Europe and globally, with the extraction and processing of raw materials alone accounting for an estimated 18 % of the EU’s total consumption-based greenhouse gas emissions. The study concerns the extraction and processing of key raw materials for consumption in Europe, of the following types: copper, iron, gold, limestone and gypsum, bauxite and aluminium, timber, chemical and fertiliser minerals, and salt.
It is suggested that raw material consumers can levy their purchasing power to influence suppliers to become more climate-friendly. This may take the form of including sourcing requirements in public procurement, or provisions in trade agreements for example. The EEA also lists opportunities for improvement, including “adopting a life cycle approach to allow better accounting and monitoring of climate-related impacts associated with raw material supply chains, promoting resource- and energy-efficient practices, promoting use of renewable energy sources during extraction and processing of raw materials, strengthening market demand for secondary raw materials and using international frameworks for increasing transparency and cooperation along the raw material supply chains.”
In the quest to reduce emissions, this very first stage in manufacturing must not be ignored, and the report finds that better sourcing practices could potentially cut associated, consumption-based emissions by at least 10 %, or in many cases even more. Market demand and accessibility of information for end-users also come into play in working towards the goal of reducing harmful emissions.