More Electric Cars Means More Child Labourers

Philip Hammond promised a green revolution on our roads, but electric cards are linked to human rights abuses.

by Simon Childs
26 November 2017, 6:47am

Ah, the future (mauritius images GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo)

Driverless cars were a focal point in Phil Hammond’s budget speech, intended to conjure up images of Britain as a thrusting, futuristic economy rather than the sick man of Europe. But before we get there, the Chancellor said that first of all we need electric cars. “We owe it to our children that the air they breathe is clean,” he said.

But are electric cars really all that clean? In July, Amnesty warned that, “there is a significant risk of cobalt mined by children and adults in appalling conditions in the Democratic Republic of Congo ending up in the batteries of electric cars. Workers in the DRC, earning as little as one dollar a day and at risk of fatal accidents and illness, must not pay the price for the UK’s shift to electric cars.”

The Department for International Development acknowledges that in the DRC, “The large mining sector is an emerging priority for tackling modern slavery, including child labour and exploitation.”

Earlier this month, Amnesty reiterated the warning, saying, “Major electronics and electric vehicle companies are still not doing enough to stop human rights abuses entering their cobalt supply chains, almost two years after an Amnesty International investigation exposed how batteries used in their products could be linked to child labour in the DRC.”

Their report, “Time to Recharge”, released in November, recommends that countries like the UK “should play a more meaningful role by legally requiring greater transparency of human rights risks and abuses in cobalt supply chain practices.”

Unfortunately none of this got a mention as Phil lauded the drive to electric vehicles, which would increase demand for cobalt. Hopefully our children may breathe clean air soon, but at less changes are made, it’ll continue to be at the expense of children in the DRC.

Watch: Conflict Minerals, Rebels and Child Soldiers in Congo