Download the full programme (PDF)

Day 1

TOPIC 1: What materials for a low carbon future? Exploring the implications of the transition to a low-carbon economy on primary resource demand

+ 9.00–9.15 Opening

opening remarks by organisers

+ 9.15–10.15 Introduction

How have societies coped with resource scarcity in the past and how we have moved from one main resource to another (from wood to coal to oil)?

+ 10.15–11.15 Groundwork Session 1: What materials for a low carbon future?

What is the 'low carbon transition', and what are its implications? Taking a foresight approach, the panelists will identify the sectors most affected by the low-carbon trans ition (for ins tance, energy infrastructure, construction, transportation, and digital technologies) and map out trends, scenarios and issues relating to material use as those sectors evolve. Resources to consider may include structural materials, key to low-carbon infrastructure in an urbanizing world (cement, sand, concrete, copper, aluminium, steel), as well as critical or strategic metals whose supply is at stake in a low-carbon economy (lithium, rare earth metals). What is the real potential for physical scarcity of such resources in the face of such demand?

11.15–11.45 Break

+ 11.45–12.45 Breakouts 1a-c

Breakout 1a: Basic materials in tomorrow’s climate-friendly cities

By 2050, two-thirds of the world’s population will live in cities, creating pressure on urban infrastructure. What are the consequences of rapid urbanization on the demand for key material resources like cement, concrete, glass, sand or steel? How can cities grow sustainably into a low-carbon future, with an eye to end-of-life and change of purpose, and with minimal amounts of embedded carbon? What would low-carbon cities look like, and what is the implication for wider resource use?

Breakout 1b:Powering the future: energy storage minerals

The decarbonization of the trans port industry is resulting in a revolution in energy storage technologies. Electric vehicle demand is driving increased demand for lithium-ion batteries. What is the forecast demand for the key materials of lithium and cobalt? What is the impact on supply chain risk for end-users and can these risks be mitigated? What is the prospect for emerging battery technologies such as vanadium flow? What are the technological challenges in secondary supply?

Breakout 1c: Critical metals in high technologies: Managing complexity

Rare earth elements are raising concerns from public authorities as they are increasingly used in strategic sectors of the economy such as telecommunication and defence. What is the reality of rare earth elements availability now and in the foreseeable future? How are digital technologies driving a more complex resource landscape? Is the increasing role played by rare earth elements in high technologies a reasonable source of concern? How is complexity and diversity making products more vulnerable to risks in supply of those metals? And what is the true risk from geopolitical imbalances of supply and demand?

12.45–2.15 Lunch

+ Breakouts 1d-f

Breakout 1d: Copper and aluminium in the low carbon world

Copper and aluminium provide the building blocks for both indus trial and economic growth, and are also key for new energy technologies. Will the demand landscape for common metals be radically different from past use? What are future trends of substitution in the search for lower carbon usages, for instance magnesium for aluminium, or fibre optics for copper? Can the proportion of metal coming from secondary sources increase in the future?

Breakout 1e: Low carbon energy production: will clean tech create new resource scarcities?

Renewable energy production is the lynchpin for the low-carbon world. Clean technologies such as solar panels, and onshore wind have won tremendous market share gains over fossil fuels in recent years. What does the upcoming deployment curve look like, and what is the implication for the resources required to support that deployment? Under worst-case scenarios, how much of the available global materials and metals might become 'locked in' to large-scale installations for decades to come? Will regulatory intervention help or heed?

Breakout 1f:Fertilizers, yields and resource depletion: phosphates and the need for productive agriculture in Europe

Phosphorus-based mineral fertilizers may be key to the increase in yields needed to maintain food requirements. Yet phosphorus is not a renewable resource – less and less is returned to the fields while more and more is washed away. How can climate change and other environmental legislation affect phosphate use and supply? What policies are likely to foster resource efficiency and recovery? What European policies are required in the management of a strategic resource in Europe? And are there alternative sources of biofertilizers, for instance phosphorus from sludge?


TOPIC 2: Managing the impacts of extractive industries in a new low carbon resource landscape. Will the extraction of primary resource fulfill rising demand?

+ 3.30–4.30 Groundwork session 2: Primary resource availability in a low carbon transition

In the shift towards resource availability, physical factors like geological availability may not be the prime constraint to meeting demand for extracted materials. Rather, the limits may be environmental, social, political, or economic. Limits also arise from interdependencies with water, land or energy, for which there are competing social needs. These tensions are particularly prevalent in the extraction of metals and minerals–often in developing countries where social needs are acute and governance is less clear. What are the key limiting factors and what technical and organizational innovation can mitigate their impact? What is the impact of a low-carbon transition on the extractive industries? What will these industries look like in a low-carbon future, and what are the second-order implications down the road? How can governance mechanisms in extractive industries evolve to make the industry sustainable?

4.30–4.45 Break

+ 4.45–5.45 Breakouts 2a-c

Breakout 2a: The paradox of extraction and energy consumption in a low-carbon transition

Some extracted materials are essential to low-carbon growth –yet their reserves may not be easily accessible, and the energy required to access them may make extraction economically unviable. This session considers whether increased demand for metals implies a need to access lower grade ores with accompanying consequences for energy use and carbon emissions. Is there an energy threshold where it becomes more cost efficient to recycle rather than to extract? Are there innovative policy or business solutions?

Breakout 2b: The water-land-resource nexus

As easily accessible mines are depleted, finding and accessing new mines are likely to put pressure on resources, in particular water and land. Overall, the environmental impact of mining may even surpass planetary boundaries. In addition, new mines increasingly compete on the local communities level for water, energy, land or pressuring human health. How can disputes be settled at the local level? How can the private sector and public sector engage responsibly? Are there better ways of dealing with mining waste in a low carbon world, and what are the best practices for the reduction of environmental impacts?

Breakout 2c: Financing sustainable resource availability

More investors today are scrutinizing the non-financial impacts of their investments. What role does the financial sector play in sustainable resource extraction? How does it integrate interdependent risks related to resource scarcity? What innovative financial tools might stimulate efficient and responsible resource extraction? Will the cost of capital increase significantly for mining companies in the future? How can investments be directed towards solutions which might have higher upfront capital costs and even sustained periods of negative value, but which are the most sustainable -and therefore most valuable-solution in the long term?

Day 2

TOPIC 3: Disruption in resource availability: the case for circular economy

+ 9.00–10.00 Groundwork session 3

The circular economy has the potential to disrupt and radically change the resource use and availability landscape. The circular economy can contribute to decarbonzing the economy and a fully circular economy could even be a new source of resources and materials. How can we encourage a true paradigm shift?

+ 10.05–11.05 Breakouts 3a-c

Breakout 3a: Scaling up recycling of complex products

What are the current economic, technical, legal or social obstacles to scaling up recycling of complex products such as electronic items and energy products such as batteries or solar PV panels? Can new forms of collaboration between businesses and institutions help? How much can we expect to collect from recycling? Can design of products facilitate recycling of components? Can products be designed to be safer to recycle?

Breakout 3b: The reach of closed loop recycling and remanufacturing

Can full closed loop recycling and remanufacturing become a reality for some materials? With sufficient design, manufacturing and repair innovations, can the need to mine be completely eradicated for specific materials or metals? What new business model would facilitate such closed loop systems? What new business models would help form closed loops and avoid waste to end up in the environment?

Breakout 3c: Eco-design in the built environment

Eco-design each year eliminates more than the annual energy consumption of Italy. Part of the circular economy principle is to think about how to des ign products so that they incorporate recycled materials and that they are easily reusable or recyclable. This implies thinking about resource efficiency in the product design process and a shift away from the minds et of planned obsolescence. How is this shift being incorporated into design or business education for buildings and the built environment? Can key 9 components like steel girders be designed for re-use in buildings? In practice, which businesses or organisations are leading this charge and how? Can producer responsibility concepts be applied for buildings?

11.05–11.30 Break

+ 11.30–12.30 Breakouts 3d-f

Breakout 3d: E Waste: policies to foster the circular economy

Waste from electronic devices is predicted to increase dramatically due to consumption patterns of developed countries and the growing middle class of developing countries. How are developed and developing countries currently dealing with their e-waste, and how can e-waste be reinvented as a circular economy resource? How is China, the second largest consumer market in the world, tackling its e-waste differently than in the US or Europe? What technologies already exist, and is required for these technologies to be adopted at scale? How can we increase awareness of e-waste issues among consumers?

Breakout 3e: Plastics n a zero carbon world

To increase resource efficiency, complex plastics are increasingly replacing heavier metals. Many hybrid or electric vehicle makers are investigating the use of carbon-fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) bodies. How do we ensure those new plastics, and the products that contain them, are designed to be recycled or re-used? What is the climate and waste impact of a shift from metals to complex plastics? How can plastics be incorporated in new uses? How can the use of recycled plastics vs the use of virgin plastics be incentivised when virgin plastics are cheaper at current oil prices? What can be done with plastics that can’t be recycled?

Breakout 3f: Technological and scientific innovation in circularity

Can digital and scientific technologies drive change towards the circular economy paradigm? What role can the IoT, 3D printing, big data, automation play in fostering efficient and circular resource use at different stage s of the value chain? Can innovation in materials generate radical innovations and accelerate a paradigm s hift from the bottom up?

+ 12.30–13.30 Special Address and closing