We expect the co-legislators to deliver further!

The European Commission has today published two important legislative proposals aimed at strengthening Europe’s domestic manufacturing capacity for green technologies while reducing its dependence on critical raw materials: the Net-Zero Industry Act (NZIA) and the Critical Raw Materials Act (CRMA), plus the creation of a European Hydrogen Bank.

IndustriAll Europe welcomes these initiatives. In a global context of uncertainty and competition between major economies to attract investment in green industries, it is vital that Europe builds leadership in climate-neutral industries and strategic autonomy at the same time. This EU response was a must!

Crucially, industriAll Europe welcomes that workers have made it on the agenda of both the Critical Raw Materials Act and the Net-Zero Industry Act. The proposed acts highlight the importance of quality jobs, skills development, and job-to-job transitions to address sectoral labour market risks and help ensure EU competitiveness. The role of social partners is recognised. Our demands have largely been heard and have improved the draft legislation. We expect the co-legislators to deliver further!

In addition to reducing dependence on imports of energy, raw materials and technology equipment, this EU clean tech boost should lead to massive job creation in future-oriented manufacturing value chains such as solar and wind energy, heat pumps, batteries, clean hydrogen, carbon capture and storage (CCUS) or nuclear power for those countries that have chosen this option.

If accompanied by a deep reform of the EU’s energy market legislation, this should also make decarbonised energy in Europe more affordable. This is the cornerstone of the EU's long-term decarbonisation strategy, including for hard-to-decarbonise sectors such as basic industries (steel and basic metals, chemicals, glass and other basic materials).

Luc Triangle, industriAll Europe General Secretary said:

“The future of industry will be climate neutral. Setting an ambitious target to ensure that a significant proportion of the necessary technologies are made in Europe is good news for the millions of men and women who work and will work in our industry.

“Similarly, responsible domestic extraction and processing, supply diversification and circularity are important to secure industrial jobs in Europe that depend on the supply of raw materials. We must ensure that this leads to good quality jobs.“

Long-term workforce strategies, embedded in a Just Transition agenda, must underpin the implementation of this legislation. We therefore regret that the Green Deal Industrial Plan as a whole provides unprecedented support to private investors without requiring any social commitments. Financial support for private companies investing in clean technologies in Europe must be conditional and linked to guarantees for collective bargaining, unionised workplaces and the promotion of apprenticeships.

Trade unions are however concerned about the deregulatory tone from the European Commission. Greater efficiency in public administration is to be welcomed. But exemptions and fast-track procedures for energy or mining projects could undermine the protective role of EU legislation. At the same time, the public administrations responsible for the permitting process must be adequately resourced, otherwise the proposed timelines will be unrealistic.

Finally, the NZIA and the CRMA must be seen in a global context. European industry relies on trade for both imports and exports. The support for clean technologies must not become a protectionist race or promote corporate neo-colonialism in the global South. Rules matter and the EU needs to clarify how these two pieces of legislation fit with fair and regulated trade, including rules on corporate governance and accountability, that ensure respect for the highest human rights and environmental standards.

Luc Triangle:

“Supporting clean tech or sustainable mining projects that benefit society, including the creation of good jobs, is a legitimate goal. But it is equally important to respect social and environmental standards. No one should have to choose between getting a job and drinking safe water or breathing clean air. We have the tools in Europe to have a strong industry and a healthy environment.”