Impacts of climate change on the ecological criticality of Germany’s raw material demand


Climate change will exacerbate existing challenges such as poverty, pollution and biodiversity loss and will decelerate economic development in many countries. When comparing Germany with other countries, forecasts on the direct impacts of climate change are indeed moderate, and adaptation is possible; nevertheless, the indirect impacts of climate change remain a danger. The impacts of climate change in other parts of the world could substantially affect Germany, given its strong interdependence. The German economy is based on a complex network of international trade relations and global supply chains. It is highly dependent on the import of raw materials, food, and intermediate products, while also exporting the majority of its industrial production. Despite this vulnerability, research on quantifying these transnational and indirect climate risks is still in its infancy.

In order to help fill this gap, adelphi, in collaboration with the Ifeu Institute and the University of Queensland (Australia), was commissioned by the German Federal Environment Agency (UBA) to analyse the impacts of climate change on the ecological criticality of German demand for raw materials. The project focused on analysing the connections between climate change, raw materials supply and environmental risks and on how potential climatic changes will impact the supply security of various raw materials.

The project started by systematically assessing the vulnerability of mining production in varying climatic contexts and associated environmental risks and impacts using five regional case studies. The focus of this analysis was on possible climate change impacts, the ecological risks of mining, and potential supply risks. Based on the case studies and a review of the current state of the research, a quantitative climate change vulnerability assessment methodology for producing countries and reserves was developed. This methodoloy was applied to eight resources that are of current or future importance to Germany. Based on the findings, concrete recommendations were developed for a precautionary natural resources and adaptation policy.