In the 2015 Paris Agreement, the world’s governments pledged to slow global warming to below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to continue efforts to limit it to 1.5°C. Furthermore, in 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that global warming must not exceed 1.5°C to avoid the catastrophic effects of climate change. To achieve this, greenhouse gas emissions must be halved by 2030 and reduced to zero by 2050 (net zero emissions target).

In a world where climate challenges are intensifying, we have limited time to act, and the private sector has a crucial role to play: all sectors and markets must transform. Canadian industries such as mining, metallurgy and ports play a central role in the transition to a more sustainable economy. Beyond their economic and strategic importance, these sectors have a significant impact on the environment and society, which is important to consider in the context of decarbonization.

This summary takes a close look at how these industries can engage in the fight against climate change while avoiding adverse impacts on the environment, biodiversity and society. It highlights the key concepts of mitigation, adaptation and resilience to climate change, in which life cycle assessment (LCA), biodiversity, nature-based solutions, the circular economy, eco-design and carbon neutrality by 2050 play a key role.

Moving towards sustainability

Globally, companies in the mining, metallurgy and port sectors are resolutely committed to sustainable development initiatives and to reducing their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. These include corporate initiatives and initiatives led by external organizations, such as “Towards Sustainable Mining”1 developed by the Mining Association of Canada; Green Marine2 developed by the Green Marine Management Corporation for the North American marine industry; and the Science Based Targets initiative3 (SBTi) developed by the CDP4, UN Global Compacts5, WRI6 and WWF7 partnership.

In the mining sector, TSM is a Canadian sustainable development program recognized and applied worldwide. It provides a framework for continuous improvement of environmental and social performance at the mine site level. In 2023, Rio Tinto won the Community Involvement Award of Excellence for its Diavik mine in the Northwest Territories. The company was recognized for embodying the best practices of the circular economy through partnership and local community engagement, two central principles of TSM’s Aboriginal and Community Relations and Climate Change Protocols. Supported by passionate employees, the company implemented a circular economy program to recycle copper wire from operating levels under completion. The recycled copper was then sold to local communities, with the proceeds used by the mine for its local community contribution program. This circular economy project had both environmental and social benefits, as it prevented around 102 tonnes of copper wire (a critical mineral) from ending up in landfill, and raised funds for local charities.

With demand for critical and strategic minerals (CSMs) skyrocketing, largely because they are essential to the manufacture of technologies needed for the energy transition, it is becoming imperative to ensure that the supply of CSMs is sufficient to support it on a global scale. In addition to exploiting new SCM deposits, it is necessary to establish a culture of circularity for these industries, whose historical raw material is above all a finite, non-renewable resource that will become less and less accessible at sustainable environmental, social and economic costs. [1] [2].

The transition to a more sustainable economy therefore begins with changing current linear practices (extraction, transformation, use, landfill) and existing technologies to create economic opportunities from secondary materials and end-of-life products. This is the essence of the circular economy, which supports business practices that extract as much value as possible from resources by recycling, repairing, reusing, repurposing or refurbishing products and materials, thereby eliminating waste, consumption of virgin resources and, ideally, reducing environmental impacts including GHG emissions.

For the port industry, Green Marine is a voluntary environmental certification aimed at continuously improving the environmental impact of participating stakeholders. Progress is assessed annually using performance indicators specific to each participant category (shipowners, ports and sea lanes, terminals, and shipyards) and most Canadian industry players participate. These performance indicators include aquatic invasive species management, air pollutant emissions, GHG emissions, residual materials management, underwater noise management, ship recycling, community relations, stormwater management, etc.

Targeting all economic sectors, SBTi (Science Based Target initiative) provides a framework for companies’ commitment to achieving GHG emissions reduction targets (scopes 1, 2 and 3). In particular, Scope 3 GHG emissions cover extraction and processing of raw materials, transportation of raw materials to the factory, manufacturing, distribution, use and end-of-life.

Several studies show that Scope 1 GHG emissions account for 37% of the five sectors defined by the IPCC (energy suppliers, transport, industry, buildings and agriculture and forestry), while Scope 2 represents between 11% and 25%, and Scope 3 would account for at least 52% of emissions from the global economy [3] [2] [4]. As such, decarbonizing the value chain represents one of the most important opportunities for companies to play their part in achieving the global net zero emissions goal by 2050. To this end, California has passed the Climate Corporate Data Accountability Act, or SB 253, requiring companies of a certain size to publicly report their annual GHG emissions. This will apply starting in 2026 for Scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions, and 2027 for indirect Scope 3 emissions [5].

However, while the biggest challenge currently in the media is to reduce our GHG emissions, it is important to consider the adverse effects (or displacement of the environmental and socio-economic burden) in achieving net zero emissions, in order to promote truly sustainable strategies. Scientific literature points to shifting impacts in categories such as mineral resource depletion, land use, land-use change, human health, water scarcity and others [2]. Achieving targets cannot be achieved at the expense of biodiversity and social well-being, both locally and globally.

In short, it is imperative to recognize and differentiate the various sources of environmental impact emanating from the mining, metallurgical and port industries. These impacts, whether direct, arising from on-site activities, or indirect, extending along the value chain, require a targeted approach to introduce sustainable reduction measures. This fine distinction makes it possible not only to formulate effective strategies, but also to make significant progress towards tangible environmental goals, such as reducing carbon footprints and striving for carbon neutrality. By adopting a holistic perspective, it becomes possible to engage in innovative partnerships and promote sustainable practices to preserve our environment for future generations.












[1] A. Stéphant, “Transition énergétique : une nécessaire intégration des impacts environnementaux de l’industrie minière,” Revue internationale et stratégique, vol. 128, no. 4, pp. 95-103, 2022.

[2] A. de Bortoli, A. Bjørn, F. Saunier and M. Margni, “Planning sustainable carbon neutrality pathways: accounting challenges experiences by organizations and solutions from industrial ecology,” The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, vol. 28, pp. 746-770, 2023.

[3] E. Hertwich and R. Wood, “The growing importance of scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions from industry,” Environmental Research Letters, vol. 13, p. 104013, 2018.

[4] CDP, “Transparency to transformation: a chain reaction. CDP Global Supply Chain Report 2020,” CDP North America, New York, NY, 2021.

[5] GHG Protocol, “News,” 10 Octobre 2023. [Online]. Available:

[6] World Business Council for Sustainable Development, “The role of Nature-based Solutions in strategies for Net Zero, Nature Positive and addressing Inequality. Insights from the evolution of Natural Climate Solutions as part of corporate action on Climate,” wbcsd.

[7] Union Internationale pour la Conservation de la Nature, “Les solutions fondées sur la nature,” [Online]. Available: [Accessed 31 10 2023].

[8] United Nations Environment Program and Internation Union for Conservation of Nature, “Nature-based solutions for climate change mitigation,” UNEP, Nairobi and Gland, 2021.

[9] UNEP/SETAC Life Cycle Initiative, “Towards a Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment, Making informed choices on products.,” UNEP DTIE, Paris, France, 2011.

[10] ISO, ISO 14040:2006. Management environnemental. Analyse du cycle de vie. Principes et cadre, 2 ed., 2006.

[11] ISO, ISO 14044:2006. Management environnemental. Analyse du cycle de vie. Exigences et lignes directrices, 1 ed., 2006.

Aline Cobut
Team Leader – Climate Change Expertise
Social Acceptability and Environment