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Assessing cobalt supply sustainability through production forecasting and implications for green energy policies

Ntebatše R. Rachidi, Glen T. Nwaila, Steven E. Zhang, Julie E. Bourdeau and Yousef Ghorbani

Resources Policy, 2021, vol. 74, issue C

Abstract: Transitioning to a decarbonized and circular economy is paramount for climate change mitigation and sustainable development. In this paper we assess the global production trends of cobalt, an energy-transition metal (ETM), and its supply sustainability. Accurate production forecasting of ETMs is essential to understand the dynamics of energy supply security and adequately plan for a change from fossil fuel energy to renewable energy production. Evaluations of market concentrations demonstrate that cobalt is a high-risk market characterized by production fluctuations and supply-chain complexities. We forecast the cobalt production using several methods. Results from both of the Auto Regressive Integrated Moving Average (ARIMA) and Holt's methods show a linear increase in world cobalt production for the short term, while a Hubbert model predicts a world production decline beginning in the late 2010s. These predictions, coupled with geopolitical, socio-environmental, and techno-economic influences on the market, reinforce the concern regarding cobalt supply sustainability. Although alternative avenues for sourcing cobalt, such as secondary urban mining and stockpiling exist, they are unlikely to become major suppliers in the short term, which highlights the need to accurately forecast primary production. Increasing interests in critical raw materials (CRMs) in policy spheres also heightens the necessity to anticipate the future of cobalt supply as governmental entities acknowledge the imbalance of CRMs in international trade. Well-researched and well-designed policies, that incorporate environmental sustainability and non-discriminatory economic growth, can facilitate an equitable shift to a greener and more circular economy. At the forefront of this shift should be ethical environmental and resource governance that recognizes the inequalities in socio-economic development and energy-transition, and mandates for a just transition towards a low carbon future.

Keywords: Cobalt; Forecasting; Energy-transition; Green policies; Circular economy (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2021
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Persistent link: https://EconPapers.repec.org/RePEc:eee:jrpoli:v:74:y:2021:i:c:s0301420721004323

DOI: 10.1016/j.resourpol.2021.102423

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