• University of Warwick

Global Inequalities and the Just Transition

Explore the role that rare Earth elements (REEs) will play in the energy transition to tackle climate change.

Nmai Hka river, near Chi Hpwi
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Understand the importance of a just transition in a zero-carbon future

Climate change is a critical issue that has inspired many young people to take action. However, when exploring green technologies as a sustainable solution, we are often presented with a simplistic view, with their costs and downsides rarely discussed.

On this four-week course, you’ll develop your understanding of green technologies, delving into what it truly means to be ‘green’.

You’ll also explore the concept of a just transition and some of the trade-offs that carbon zero will involve. With this knowledge, you’ll reflect on your own responsibilities and global inequality within the climate crisis.

Explore the use of Rare Earths Elements

You’ll improve your understanding of rare earths and how they are used in key technologies of the just transition. With this knowledge, you’ll critically reflect on your own use of rare earth elements, such as those used in smartphones.

Through real-life case studies, you’ll discover the geopolitical significance of rare earths as a commodity and the issues surrounding this global commodity chain.

Unpack green technology and the energy transition

As you start to explore the use of green technologies, you’ll reflect on how this technology might impact your life.

You’ll also unpack what a carbon zero energy transition will entail as well as its costs and benefits.

Reflect on global inequality with the experts at the University of Warwick

You’ll finish the course by critically reflecting on the current conversation about a zero-carbon future for a just transition.

Guided by the experts at the University of Warwick, you’ll not only reflect on your life but also on the lived realities of marginalised people globally to gain an understanding of the interconnectedness of issues of inequality.

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  • Week 1

    Technology, Climate Change and You

    • Welcome to the course. Let's begin!

      Please watch this short video. Dr Mandy Sadan will welcome you to the course.

    • What do you think about green technologies?

      We all have different attitudes towards green technologies. For example, although you might want to stop climate change, you might not want a large wind farm near your house! What do you think about this kind of situation?

    • What is an Energy Transition?

      We often hear the term Energy Transition and that it is important for tackling climate change. You will now read a short article about Energy Transitions, which will put this term in a historical perspective.

    • Technology and Energy Transition

      Many energy transitions in human history. Each transition has been accompanied by the development of new technologies. We now look in more detail at the connection between technology and the new energy transition.

    • What are Rare Earth Elements and why are they important?

      All energy transitions require, and create, new technologies. This is true of the current Energy Transition. We will now look at some of the materials that are needed to make them work.

    • What's the problem with Rare Earth Elements?

      You have thought about the need to use new technologies to support energy transition and tackle climate change. But what are the downsides of using minerals such as REEs? In this section, we will delve into this more deeply.

    • Preparing for next week

      What have you learned from this week's material? What are the most important things that you are taking away from the course so far?

    • Glossary

      Here you can find some key terms to help you with your learning. The glossary section will always be at the end of each week and be filled with the same content for ease of use.

  • Week 2

    Rare Earth Elements, Geopolitics and China

    • Geopolitics and Rare Earth

      In this activity, you will become familiar with the concept of geopolitics and understand why it is an important perspective to learn REEs.

    • The dominance of China in REEs

      We all learned the importance of REEs in week 1. However, China's dominance in REEs production can have unpredictable impacts. In this activity, we will learn why this can be problematic.

    • REE Production in China: Benefits and Costs

      Do you know how REE is mined? In this activity, we will explore the positive and negative impacts of mining and producing REE.

    • China's Geopolitical Strategies

      What are China's geopolitical strategies in REE? In this activity, we will explore China's REE policies, political motivations, and 'game plans' for the future in more detail.

    • Preparing for next week

      What have you learned this week? In this activity, we will summarize learning from this week and prepare for the next week.

    • Glossary

      Here you can find some key terms to help you with your learning. The glossary section will always be at the end of each week and be filled with the same content for ease of use.

  • Week 3

    Local Experiences of REEs Extraction: A Case Study from Northern Myanmar

    • Thinking about where REEs come from

      In this step, we will reflect on why REEs are being mined in the Myanmar borderlands. This is a place facing many years of conflict and where the possibilities for regulating mining and trade from resources are small.

    • How are REEs mined?

      Before you listen to the life experience of a miner in the next step, we want you to understand a little more about the process of mining REE using a technique called **in-situ leaching**.

    • A miner's story

      You will now listen to the true life story of a miner. The story is in 4 parts and is narrated by an actor from Kachin State. There are some focus questions to help you make notes and a poll at the end.

    • A problem too difficult to solve?

      In this step, you will reflect on how challenging it is to solve these problems. At the same time, we need to look for solutions somewhere! What do we do?

    • Preparing for next week

      Here you will reflect on Week 3 and consolidate what you have learned.

    • Glossary

      Here you can find some key terms to help you with your learning. The glossary section will always be at the end of each week and be filled with the same content for ease of use.

  • Week 4

    Responsibilities and Solutions: Reflections on a Just Transition

    • What does Just Transition mean?

      In this step, we will learn more about the origins of the term Just Transition. What does it mean - and what does that mean for all of us if we take it seriously?

    • Perspectives

      In the following step, we will think about the perspectives and experiences of different people involved in the REE supply chain. You have learned about the life of a REE miner but let's now consider other people, too.

    • What has been done so far?

      In this step, we will consider some of the options that have already been used to deal with similar problems. We will think about their strengths and weaknesses as we seek a more Just Energy Transition.

    • Self-reflection and future: what can we do?

      In this section, we ask you to reflect on your personal responsibilities and how you might take actions to make a positive contribution. What have you learned that will encourage you to make a change?

    • Progress, further reading, and future

      This activity is the last part of the course. We list additional readings that you might be interested. We also welcome you to carry your interests further at the University of Warwick!

    • Glossary

      Here you can find some key terms to help you with your learning. The glossary section will always be at the end of each week and be filled with the same content for ease of use.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

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Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Assess different perspectives on the benefits and costs of using advanced technologies to tackle climate change
  • Collaborate with other learners to support individual and group learning about energy transitions in different contexts, including the personal contexts of individual learners on the course
  • Debate the relationship between global and local interests when using advanced technologies to tackle climate change
  • Discuss their own attitudes towards green technologies and how these may change during the course
  • Reflect on the reasons why some parts of the world become vulnerable to exploitative resource extraction
  • Identify areas of technology that are dependent upon Rare Earth Elements in their everyday lives and to understand the costs and benefits of reliance on that technology
  • Reflect on the interconnectedness of issues of global inequality and how these may be maintained or challenged in decisions relating to tackling climate change

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for anyone interested in sustainable development and the move to carbon zero.

It will be particularly useful for students and undergraduate students who want to aid their study of sustainability, carbon zero, and the climate crisis.

Who will you learn with?

I am a Professor of Global Sustainable Development at the University of Warwick, based in the School for Cross Faculty Studies.

Kevin is currently a doctoral researcher in the Department of Education Studies (DES) at the University of Warwick. Find more at: https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/ces/postgrads/pgr/eportfolios/u1792063

Who developed the course?

The University of Warwick

The University of Warwick is forward-looking, entrepreneurial and globally connected. With new ways of thinking and achieving it stands out from its competitors as an inspiring place to study.


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