High Andean wetlands are of key value for local economies, including pastures for cattle, food resources and fresh water to local communities, and represent an invaluable cultural heritage. They are part of the region known as Lithium triangle (Argentina, Bolivia and Chile ) which accounts for 68% of lithium in their salt flats (globally).
Lithium is a key component in rechargeable and in electric vehicles batteries. The EU is not a lithium producer. It relies on imports. The European Commission estimates that demand for lithium will grow 18 times by 2030 and 60 times by 2050.
How to ensure fair investments towards a just, clean, green energy transition including protecting key ecosystems and people relying on them? The Lab debate tried to respond to this question.
During the Lab Debate, Román Baigún from Wetlands and Ernesto Feilbogen, Energy coordinator at GIZ, discussed the risks related to lithium production, the challenges lithium mining causes for local communities, and biodiversity in the region. Mr Feilbogen, who was born in the region, suggested employing hydrogen and the recycling of batteries as possible alternatives. However, he highlighted the need for dialogue with local communities to advance these alternatives. Moreover, Mr Baigún warned that once areas have been destroyed, restoration may no longer be possible. He urged businesses to be more eco-responsible and governments to take on a more proactive role in updating legislation to meet current challenges.