Corona crisis and Russian war of aggression: The EU Commission now wants to continue on the path to climate neutrality and in the fight for industrial jobs.
The EU Commission wants to intervene more in the economy with two legislative proposals for a climate-neutral and crisis-proof EU economy. With a law that has now been introduced for a climate-neutral economy, certain sectors are to be given easier access to subsidies, among other things.
With another new law on the supply of raw materials, the industry is to be given concrete targets for the extraction and processing of important materials in the EU. On the one hand, the conversion to a CO2-neutral economy should be accelerated and it should be ensured that the EU is not dependent on imports from individual countries such as China for important raw materials.
Find common ground
The EU states and the European Parliament must now discuss the projects and find a common line. In Europe, people thought for too long that the market would regulate everything, said EU Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans. “What we do is future-oriented,” emphasized the Dutchman, adding: “It’s what you have to do when you’re in the middle of an industrial revolution.”
The plans of the EU Commission are a further departure from previous industrial policy principles. For a long time, the EU had very strict rules for state subsidies to companies, so that countries could not give their companies distorting advantages in competition with companies from other EU countries. In the wake of the corona pandemic and to counteract the effects of the Russian war of aggression on Ukraine, such rules had already been relaxed significantly.
Better conditions for wind turbines and heat pumps
The Net Zero Industry Act is now intended to create better conditions for the production and operation of wind turbines, heat pumps and solar panels, for renewable hydrogen and CO2 storage, said EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. The EU also wants to achieve its goal of becoming climate-neutral by 2050.
The aim is that by 2030 at least 40 percent of the Union’s requirements for certain technologies can be manufactured in the EU. In addition to heat pumps, CO2 storage, solar and wind power, this also includes battery and storage technologies, electrolysers and fuel cells.
But certain technologies that generate energy from nuclear power should also be promoted to a certain extent. Green MP Michael Bloss takes a critical view of this: “We must now set the course for 100 percent renewable energies and not give gifts to the nuclear industry.” The environmental organization WWF emphasized that despite faster approval procedures, environmental standards must be observed. The conservationists warn that there could be exceptions to environmental protection laws.
Commission wants to end dependence on China
Because certain raw materials such as lithium are urgently needed for the production of promising technologies such as batteries, wind and solar power plants, the economy should also be given guidelines here. According to the Commission, Europe’s dependence on countries like China should end. According to this, at least 10 percent of these strategically important raw materials should be extracted, 40 percent processed and 15 percent recycled in future in the EU, based on annual consumption. The European Parliament and EU states must also discuss these proposals and agree on a final law.
Criticism of the project comes from industry, among others. “The legislative initiative falls far short of expectations and needs,” said the German Association of the Automotive Industry. There is real impetus, but instead of a European agency that can invest directly in raw materials projects, unrealistic targets for self-sufficiency, recycling and import quotas are being proposed.
CSU economic politician Markus Ferber criticized the Commission’s plans for giving the impression that the planned economy of the 1960s would become the trendsetter for 2023. “Such rigid quotas up to 2030 are reminiscent of five-year plans from the times of socialism.” EU Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis emphasized that we are not in a planned economy. SPD MEP Matthias Ecke welcomed the Commission’s plans. He emphasizes that the demand for critical raw materials will skyrocket over the next few decades.