In this paper, the authors explore the possible evolution of four scenarios of copper demand in Europe to 2050. In a “business as usual” scenario, the modelled future domestic demand can only be met by increasing primary inputs and, despite strong efforts to improve recycling at end-of-life, the fraction of old scrap in total metal demand seems likely to achieve 65% at best. Should that scenario ensue, the GHG emissions embodied in EU copper demand might result in an emissions gap of more than 260% the carbon dioxide reduction target.
In contrast, the lowest environmental impacts are associated with a scenario emphasizing green technology and more equitable lifestyles. In that scenario, the secondary copper flows will gradually approach the expected demand, laying the foundation for achieving a circular economy with considerable potential for preserving natural capital and mitigating climate change. This possible future, however, requires dramatic changes in the current pattern of material production and consumption.