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EU’s green transition: Final approval for critical raw materials strategy

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On Monday (18 March), the Council of the EU granted its final approval for a strategy aimed at ensuring a sustainable supply of critical raw materials crucial for the green transition, digital industries, and defense sectors, as stated in a press release.

Europe currently relies heavily on external sources for these essential elements, including lithium for battery production and rare earth elements for electronics.

The Critical Raw Materials Act (CRMA), endorsed today, seeks to diminish the EU’s dependence on these external sources, particularly China, which exerts significant control over the supply chains of many of these materials.

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The CRMA identifies a list of 17 strategic elements, such as cobalt and copper, alongside an expanded inventory of 34 critical materials, including coking coal.

The legislation establishes ambitious targets for the procurement of strategic elements.

By 2030, at least 10% of the bloc’s annual consumption will originate from domestically extracted minerals, 40% from elements processed within the EU, and 25% from recycled materials. Moreover, no single third country will supply more than 65% of Europe’s annual consumption of any key materials by this deadline.

Significantly, the Act imposes deadlines for the evaluation of projects within the EU. Extraction projects must undergo the permitting process within 27 months, while recycling and processing projects should obtain their permits within 15 months.

Major companies engaged in manufacturing key technologies such as batteries and renewable energy generators will be required to conduct risk assessments of their supply chains and develop strategies to mitigate potential supply disruptions.

Last week, European Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen announced the opening of an office in Nuuk, Greenland’s capital, along with a €22.5 million program to invest in energy and critical raw materials in the Danish territory. Additionally, a strategic partnership was signed with Canada in 2021.

The CRMA forms a part of the Green Deal Industrial Plan, introduced by Commissioner Thierry Breton in February 2023. A political agreement on the CRMA was reached in the European Parliament in November 2023.

The Act will now be forwarded to the President of the European Parliament and the President of the Council for their signatures. Subsequently, it will be published in the Journal of the EU and come into force 20 days thereafter.

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