COP28 Trade Day event: Critical minerals, the energy transition and the role of trade

COP28 Trade Day event: Critical minerals, the energy transition and the role of trade
04 December 2023
09:40 - 10:30 hrs. Al Waha Theatre (Blue Zone) [LIVE STREAM]
, United Arab Emirates

The upcoming COP28 United Nations climate summit, which will take place from 30 November to 12 December in Dubai, will spotlight the role of trade in goods and services and trade policy can play in bolstering and accelerating the clean energy transition.

The conference, hosted by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), will dedicate an entire day to discussions on trade, the first of its kind within the context of a UN climate conference. The Trade Day is scheduled for 4 December 2023.

Trade Day” at COP28 will highlight trade’s potential as a catalyst for climate-smart development, focusing on issues like value-chain decarbonization and resilience.

As part of the Trade Day events, UNCTAD and the COP28 Presidency are organising a session on “Critical minerals, the energy transition, and the role of trade.”

This event will be live streamed

Join us online

The session will address how trade policy and the multilateral system can facilitate an enabling international trade and investment environment that will help to secure energy transition-related value chains while increasing mineral-rich countries' benefits by fostering 'on-site' value addition and, thereby, creating socio-economic development opportunities.

Background information

The anticipated significant growth in the demand for critical minerals in the upcoming decades to support the energy transition could offer unique development opportunities for mineral-rich developing countries if a different approach is taken. The anticipated investment in extraction and processing is vastly insufficient to meet the expected demand and a just, equitable and sustainable transition.

There is a need for countries to strengthen their domestic capacities to leverage development gains avoiding another natural resource curse at the expense of people and planet. UNCTAD’s work on trade of critical minerals addresses current and projected trends in critical minerals' demand and supply as well as social, economic, and environmental impacts of the exploitation of these minerals and offers policy recommendations to facilitate sustainable exploitation, enhanced trade diversification, and domestic resource mobilization for structural transformation to achieve the SDGs. 

There is also a need for robust and effective governance. During the Secretary-General’s Climate Ambition Summit in September (in support of the UN Secretary General's Working Group on Transforming the Extractive Industry for Sustainable Development initiative “Harnessing Critical Energy Transition Minerals for Sustainable Development in LDCs and LLDCs  Just Transitions in Low Carbon Technologies"), governments signalled their support for a UN-led effort to create a set of global voluntary principles on Critical Energy Transition Minerals, (see: Chair’s Summary of the Climate Ambition Summit 2023). These minerals are vital for the shift from fossil fuels to renewables, but to date, their use has lacked a global framework to address sourcing and policy coordination. Leaders agreed that only the United Nations can act as neutral broker to ensure a just, equitable and sustainable expansion of these resources and the emerging industries they create.

The objective of the session is to forge consensus on the need to foster domestic value-addition to critical minerals in producing developing countries to increase supply chains resilience, and sustainability, and to ensure fairer distribution of benefits from trade in critical minerals-based products to all value chain participants.



  • Mr. John Defterios, Visiting Professor of Business, NYU Abu Dhabi


  • Ms. Rebeca Grynspan, Secretary-General, UNCTAD 
  • H.E. Mr. Jean Lucien Bussa Tongba, Minister of Trade, DRC 
  • H.E. Ms. Lucia lipumbu, Minister of Trade, Namibia 
  • H.E. Ms. Kristin Tilley, Ambassador for Climate Change, Australia
  • Mr. Rohitesh Dhawan, President and CEO, International Council on Mining and Metals
  • Mr. Selwin Hart, Assistant Secretary-General for Climate and Special Adviser to the Secretary-General, United Nations 


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Supply chains, trade flows and value addition
(UNCTAD/DITC/MISC/2023/14) -  03 Dec 2023

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Rebeca Grynspan

Rebeca Grynspan, of Costa Rica, became UNCTAD's eighth Secretary-General on 13 September 2021 and is the first woman to lead the organization.

Prior to her UNCTAD appointment, she was the Ibero-American secretary-general from 2014 to 2021, also the first woman to head the organization. During her mandate, she has coordinated the 22-member Iberoamerican Conference and led four key summits of Heads of State and Government. 

In 2010 she was appointed Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Associate Administrator of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and prior to that was UNDP Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean.  

Prior to joining the United Nations, Ms. Grynspan served as Vice-President of Costa Rica from 1994 to 1998. She was also Minister of Housing, Minister Coordinator of Economic and Social Affairs, and Deputy Minister of Finance. In 2021 she was named Special International Advisor to the newly created Economic and Social Council of Argentina and invited to join as member of the G20 High-Level Independent Panel on Financing the Global Commons for Pandemic Preparedness and Response.

In addition to her experience as a lecturer and advisor to several international organizations, she has been actively involved in key United Nations initiatives, such as the Millennium Project's Task Force on Poverty and Economic Development and the High-level Panel on Financing for Development.  

In 2014 and 2015, she was recognized as one of the 50 leading intellectuals of Latin America.  And she was recognized as one of the 100 most powerful women in Central America by Forbes magazine.

Ms Grynspan holds a degree in Economics by the University of Costa Rica and a MSc in Economics by the University of Sussex. She has been awarded a Doctorate Honoris Causa by the University of Salamanca, the University of Extremadura and the European University of Madrid in recognition of her outstanding professional achievements. 

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