Critical minerals

© Shutterstock/ Freedom_wanted | Lithium evaporation ponds in northern Argentina

As the climate crisis intensifies, global demand is soaring for minerals that are critical for clean energy technologies – from wind farms to solar panels and electric vehicle batteries.

Many of these critical energy transition minerals, such as copper, lithium, nickel and cobalt, are also powering the global digital transformation.


Opportunities and risks for developing countries

Developing countries hold the bulk of the world’s critical mineral reserves. 

The surging demand offers them a pivotal opportunity to create jobs, diversify economies and boost revenues – but only if the minerals are mined and processed in a sustainable, fair and just way.

To fully benefit from their critical mineral wealth, these nations must add maximum value locally. 

They must move beyond mere raw material supply and diversify their economies, advancing up clean energy and high-tech value chains.

Otherwise, the critical minerals boom risks deepening commodity dependencies, exacerbating economic vulnerabilities and worsening inequalities.



We cannot repeat the mistakes of the past with a systematic exploitation of developing countries reduced to the production of basic raw materials. The race to net zero cannot trample over the poor.

António Guterres
Secretary-General of the United Nations




There is now an opportunity to leverage these new commodities to update our trade regime, promote structural diversification and turn the tide of commodity dependence once and for all.

Rebeca Grynspan
Secretary-General of UN Trade and Development (UNCTAD)


Panel on critical energy transition minerals

In April 2024, UN Secretary-General António Guterres launched the Panel on Critical Energy Transition Minerals to ensure a just, fair and sustainable transition that fully benefits all countries and communities endowed with these minerals.

It brings together representatives of governments, intergovernmental and international organizations, industries and civil society to develop a set of common and voluntary global principles aimed at protecting environmental and social standards and embedding justice throughout the process of sourcing and using critical energy transition minerals.

Our role

UN Trade and Development (UNCTAD), along with the UN Environment Programme and the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Action Team, serves as the secretariat to the panel.

We also play a leading role in substantively serving two of the panel’s four workstreams: “Benefit sharing, local value addition and economic diversification” and “Transparent, fair trade and investments”.

Panel on Critical Energy Transition Minerals

Documents and publications

Technical note on critical minerals
Supply chains, trade flows and value addition
UNCTAD/DITC/MISC/2023/14 - 03 Dec 2023
Commodities and Development Report 2023
Inclusive Diversification and Energy Transition
UNCTAD/DITC/COM/2023/2 - 09 Oct 2023
Economic Development in Africa Report 2023
The Potential of Africa to capture technology-intensive global supply chains
UNCTAD/ALDC/AFRICA/2023 - 16 Aug 2023