Nov 29, 2022
The leading Australian clean energy association warned Tuesday that modern-day slavery plagues global renewable energy supply chains, and that the industry must take "urgent action" to ensure human and worker rights are respected as nations decarbonize.
"Renewable energy technologies can have long supply chains that are linked at various points to modern slavery."
The report--entitled Addressing Modern Slavery in the Clean Energy Sector--notes examples of worker enslavement and other abuse, including of children, from the Ecuadorean Amazon to China, where 2.6 million Uighurs and Kazakhs allegedly face forced or coerced labor, so-called "reeducation" programs, and imprisonment in concentration camps.
The report also highlights the child labor running rampant in manganese and cobalt mining in Zambia and Congo, respectively, as well as in nickel production in the Philippines. Those three metals are critical to the manufacture of batteries.
Australia's "purchasing patterns alone will not influence global supply chains, but we still have a responsibility to play our role to eliminate modern slavery from our own supply chains and to contribute to global efforts," the report states.
\u201cIt is estimated there are more than 40 million people worldwide in some form of modern slavery, and it\u2019s been linked to many everyday products including garments from China, rubber gloves from Malaysia, seafood from Thailand and fresh produce from Australia.\u201d— Clean Energy Council (@Clean Energy Council) 1669669218
Nicholas Aberle, Clean Energy Council's policy director of energy generation and storage, said in a statement that "Australia is on a trajectory to produce the vast majority of our electricity from solar, wind, hydro, and batteries by 2030, but it's important that this shift happens in a way that is fair and equitable."
"As with many other modern products ubiquitous in everyday life, renewable energy technologies can have long supply chains that are linked at various points to modern slavery," Aberle added.
James Cockayne, the anti-slavery commissioner of New South Wales, asserted that "urgent action is needed to address the severe modern slavery risks in Australian renewable energy supply chains and investments."
"In NSW, government entities and local councils are legally required to take reasonable steps not to procure products of modern slavery," he continued. "This may include some solar panels, lithium-ion batteries, wind turbines, and renewable energy."
"This report is an important and welcome acknowledgment by industry of this problem and a first step towards addressing it," Cockayne added. "But we need to see industry, government, the financial sector, and civil society working together to provide access to competitively costed, slavery-free renewable energy. If we don't, modern slavery risks significantly complicating the just transition to a decarbonized economy."
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