Low-carbon technologies such as photovoltaics, wind power, and electric and hybrid vehicles are likely to play a key role in climate change mitigation. Yet several of these technologies depend on metals which are becoming scarce and this could hinder large-scale deployment.

The authors use a custom-built scenario calculator to estimate future supply and demand for five metals – cobalt, lithium, neodymium, indium and tellurium – under three energy scenarios and three global minerals market scenarios. They find a severe risk of medium- and long-term cumulative deficits of indium and tellurium, a moderate risk of medium-term and severe risk of long-term deficits of neodymium, and a limited risk of long-term deficits of cobalt and lithium.

The policy brief also examines how businesses and governments are responding to metal scarcity, and identify strategies to make low-carbon technologies less vulnerable to potential future supply bottlenecks.

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