The Scottish government recently announced plans to, by 2032, phase out petrol and diesel vehicles. By 2040, the only cars on United Kingdom roads will also be electric, and petrol stations will be replaced by car charging points. Meanwhile, in the United States, Elon Musk has announced the launch of the Tesla Model 3, which he hopes will become the world’s first mass-market electric car.
This shift to green technology is extremely welcome. Climate change is one of the biggest human rights challenges of our time, and cities from London to Delhi are choking on vehicle fumes. The move to electric cars will improve air quality and cut the carbon emissions that have pushed our planet to breaking point.
But some electric cars are not, currently, as ethically “clean” as manufacturers would have us believe. Amnesty International’s research has shown that cobalt mined by children and adults in extremely hazardous conditions could be entering the supply chains of some of the world’s largest carmakers.
A key component of the rechargeable lithium-ion batteries on which electric cars run is cobalt. More than half of the world’s cobalt comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Despite its mineral riches, the DRC is one of the poorest countries in the world, and has suffered from decades of war and corrupt leaders. With so few formal jobs in the country, hundreds of thousands of Congolese men, women and children, have been driven to dig their own mines to earn their livelihoods. Read more