Centre for International Environmental Studies
30 November 2021

Green Dealings Project Kick-off

In an interview with Professor Marc Hufty, Postdoctoral Researcher Diego Silva & PhD Researcher Jonas Köppel, the team discusses the kick-off of their new project. 



                                                                                     Marc Hufty           Diego Silva         Jonas Köppel

Your new SNIS project “Green Dealings” is soon kicking off. Can you tell us about your research focus and aims for the next year ahead?

In our project we focus on the rapidly evolving battery industry in Europe and its ties to lithium-producing countries in South America. The EU has promised to make the “greenest” batteries and we ask how this promise changes the relationship between the two regions. So far, the costs and benefits in this relationship have been distributed very unequally. Think of the environmental impacts of extraction in South America and the bulk of the value captured by European industries. Since lithium is becoming such a strategic resource in the context of the energy transition, we ask in our project whether lithium batteries can offer a better deal for lithium rich countries.

During our first year we will establish a network with different stakeholders along the lithium battery chain, from indigenous communities to battery companies. Together with our partnering organizations, we will involve these stakeholders in a series of workshops where we discuss issues of sustainability and justice to identify opportunities for bi-regional cooperation. In parallel, we will conduct several case studies to analyze how different actors negotiate deals along the value chain. These case studies will result in academic and policy publications.

What kind(s) of methodology are you planning to use? 

We use a range of complementary methods, from participant observation to document analysis and stakeholder workshops. By doing so we hope to capture and involve the diversity of actors that have a stake in the lithium battery chain across the two regions. We hope that this will not only provide novel insights, but also make a concrete contribution for more just deals.

You’re also engaging with various stakeholders and scholars from Europe, South America, and several key organizations. How will the collaborations take place?

Our partnering organizations (EU-LAC Foundation, eLi, ECLAC, IADB UNCTAD) will be crucial for our stakeholder engagement activities. Besides co-organizing the workshops, we will also collaborate on joint publications. This will ensure these publications are practically relevant and that they reach the different stakeholders of the lithium production chain.

With our academic partners we will collaborate to better understand how the battery industry in Europe is taking shape. We know very little about this, as it is a very recent and rapidly evolving phenomenon. Because the industry is crucial for the energy transition, we believe that it will be very important to ask critical questions from a social science perspective.

This interview was conducted with Professor Marc Hufty, Postdoctoral Researcher Diego Silva & PhD Researcher Jonas Köppel.


Lithium - the positive and negative of its trade for batteries, in view of a just energy transition