American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • Blog

  • HOMEPAGE >> BLOG >> Heavy-Handed Government Protectionism Could Backfire as Nations Continue Push towards Net-Zero Carbon Emissions

Heavy-Handed Government Protectionism Could Backfire as Nations Continue Push towards Net-Zero Carbon Emissions

Against the backdrop of surging demand for critical minerals and mounting geopolitical pressures, countries all over the world have stepped up their involvement in the critical minerals sector as the green energy transition charges on.

Followers of ARPN are aware of rising resource nationalism in Latin and South America, parts of Asia, and now Africa (see our most recent coverage of the issue here).  While some of these developments can be chalked up to a historically penchant for resource nationalism, more recently, government involvement in the critical minerals sector is on the rise even in the Western world.

As ARPN outlined earlier, while modern Western democracies are typically hesitant to embrace more state intervention in the critical minerals sector, many believe that in order to succeed, the United States and its allies need to learn “how to stomach more state intervention [themselves].” 

While state involvement has taken different forms depending on the geographical region, type of government and prevailing political leanings in a given country, a general trend towards more government intervention in this field cannot be dismissed, prompting PHP Group Ltd. Chief Executive Officer Mike Henry to warn that some of these efforts could backfire, and in fact undermine the global push towards net zero carbon emissions.

Speaking at an industry conference in Brisbane, Australia, he told attendees that it was “‘understandable’ that nations were scrambling to secure domestic supply of the metals needed in renewable energy and electric vehicles, but warned against an excessively domestic focus and over-reliance on the ‘sugar hit’ of state-provided subsidies,” as Yahoo Finance reports.

Said Henry:

“Governments striving to secure their own critical mineral supplies must ensure they don’t undermine the outcome the world needs to achieve – where in fact a combination of pragmatic international cooperation and competition can jointly accelerate the energy transition,” 

Speaking specifically in reference to Australia’s just-released critical minerals strategy, which had left some disappointed as they had hoped for more subsidies, permitting reforms and additions to the country’s critical minerals list, he added:

“There’s a big movement underway in the U.S. right now towards permitting reform. Australia needs to do that,” and “[w]hat governments here – federal and state – should focus on are those things within their control to make investment fundamentally more attractive,” i.e. focus on better productivity and fiscal settings.

Henry’s comments should give policy stakeholders pause as they rush towards protectionism.

For a prudent all-of-the-above mineral resource policy to succeed, governments should avoid a heavy-handed approach and rather focus on providing well-structured frameworks conducive to unleashing their countries’ mineral potential and securing critical mineral supply chains without stifling the progress that stems from market innovation.