The Action Plan for Critical Raw Materials presented by the European Commission in September 2020 is subject to an opinion which will be discussed by local and regional leaders during the plenary of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) on 18 March. Many European key industries, especially those involved in future-oriented technologies, are highly dependent on critical raw materials, a majority of which are imported from non-EU countries.
The opinion drafted by Isolde Ries (DE/PES), First Vice-President of the Saarland regional parliament, highlights the need to address the EU's over-reliance on non-European countries by promoting a circular use of resources, improving recycling and supply chains and expanding the extraction of critical raw materials within the European Union. The opinion also stresses that local and regional authorities must play a fundamental role in safeguarding the future supply of critical raw materials.
The European Commission defines raw materials as critical if they are of crucial economic importance and cannot be reliably and sustainably sourced within the European Union (EU). The EU extracts or produces less than 5% of global critical resources, whereas around 20% of the global consumption of these resources is accounted for by EU industries. A secure and reliable supply of critical raw materials is vital for European key industries, such as the car, steel and health industry, which employ millions of European citizens. The EU is particularly dependent on imports of critical raw materials that are key components of future-oriented technologies, such as batteries or renewable energy sources, which are helping drive the green transition in Europe. The demand for these resources will continue to increase sharply in the coming decades.
The rapporteur Isolde Ries (DE/PES), First Vice-President of the Saarland regional parliament, said: "Modern economies with long value chains cannot function without a safe, competitive and environmentally friendly supply of raw materials. We must protect the EU's access to critical raw materials through an efficient use of resources, sustainable products and innovation. A secure and reliable supply of critical raw materials, whose procurement also needs to be more environmentally and socially responsible, is not only vital for the Europeans industries and the millions of jobs that depend on them, but also for the successful implementation of the European Green Deal."
The opinion emphasizes that local and regional authorities must play a fundamental role in safeguarding the future supply of critical raw materials as they are directly responsible for the approval and supervision of industrial projects involving the use or the extraction of critical raw materials within the EU. The opinion also calls for the recycling capacity within the EU to be substantially strengthened. Furthermore, the procurement of critical raw materials from third countries should be diversified and domestic extraction of critical raw materials should be politically and financially supported in order to decrease the EU's dependence on imports from non-EU countries. This point is especially relevant for current or former European mining regions, which should investigate if opportunities for raw material extraction exist in their region.
The CoR welcomes the launch of the European Raw Materials Alliance which is open to all relevant stakeholders, including the regions, and was announced by the European Commission alongside its Action Plan.
The final result of the vote on the opinion will be announced at the end of the plenary session on 19 March.
In September 2020, the European Commission announced its Action Plan on Critical Raw Materials. Every three years the Commission publishes a list of critical raw materials in the EU. In 2020, 30 raw materials were classified as critical, including several that are becoming increasingly important in the energy sector, such as lithium and cobalt. In 2011, only 14 materials were defined as critical. The European Commission also published a foresight study on critical raw materials for strategic technologies and sectors in the EU.
In addition to the Action Plan, the European Commission created the European Raw Materials Alliance with the goal of bringing industry, member states, regions and civil society together in order to reduce Europe's dependence on the procurement of critical raw materials from third countries.
Source: The European Committee of the Regions
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