The Industrial Plan covers several policy areas and contains a variety of initiatives. The promotion of net-zero industry is to contribute to achieving the goals of the Green Deal. In this sector of future, European industry is to be given a central role internationally. It is now important to examine the plan closely for its social fairness, both in the EU and internationally.
On 1 February 2023, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen presented the Green Deal Industrial Plan. She pointed out that the Green Deal was understood as a growth strategy from the very beginning. Industry in particular should play a key role in achieving the goals of the Green Deal. The present plan therefore aims to strengthen the competitiveness of Europe's net-zero industry. “Europe is determined to lead the clean tech revolution,” said the Commission President. It was encouraging that large economies such as the USA, India or Japan were rapidly increasing their investments in net-zero industry. Now it is important to ensure fair competition in this emerging industrial sector on an international level and in the Single Market. The plan contains a variety of measures and initiatives and is based on four pillars.
A predictable and simplified regulatory environment
The first pillar aims at improving the regulatory environment. A legal framework for a rapid transition to CO2-neutral technologies is to be created, the so-called “Net-Zero Industry Act”. Simplified and fast-track permitting, the promotion of European strategic projects and the support of the dissemination of clean technologies in the Single Market are on the agenda. The Critical Raw Materials Act aims to ensure sufficient access to raw materials that are necessary for the production of key technologies.
Faster access to finance
The accelerated financing of investments in the production of clean technologies is the goal of the second pillar. In order to mobilise private financial resources, the Capital Markets Union is to be further expanded. The granting of state aid is to be facilitated while maintaining a level playing field in the Member States. They will therefore be consulted on a Temporary State aid Crisis and Transition Framework. The notification thresholds for green investment support are to be raised, which should, among other, simplify the approval of important projects of common European interest. EU funds are also to be used to a greater extent. In the short term, the aim is to facilitate access to existing funds, for example under REPowerEU or InvestEU. In the medium term, a European Sovereignty Fund could also help, for which the Commission will submit a proposal before the summer as part of its review of the Multi-annual Financial Framework.
As part of the European Year of Skills, particular attention will be paid to the skills needed in relation to the green transition. The Commission will propose a Net-Zero Industry Academies to establish relevant training and retraining programmes. It will also examine how to facilitate the access of third-country workers to certain sectors of the EU labour market. Promotion and alignment of public and private funding for skills development will also be considered.
The green transition is also to be promoted with the help of international trade. The Commission announces that it will further expand the existing network of free trade agreements and other forms of cooperation with partners. The creation of a “Critical Raw Materials Club”, which would bring together countries with high demand for raw materials and resource-rich countries, is being examined, as is the establishment of industrial partnerships for clean and net-zero technologies. Finally, the EU Single Market should be protected from unfair trade and competitive distortion due to foreign subsidies.
Many initiatives with a big impact?
The Green Deal Industrial Plan touches on several policy areas and contains a large number of initiatives, many of which are still under review. The task now will be to examine the Industrial Plan and, above all, its concrete implementation in terms of social fairness, both within and outside the EU. In the course of state aid, a link should be established with social criteria and fiscal good conduct. The announced simplification of the regulatory framework must under no circumstances undermine social standards, just as the expansion of the Capital Markets Union must not be at the expense of financial market stability. The aim must be to make the Green Deal also a social deal with quality jobs, quality education and high social standards. This also applies in particular to the Industrial Plan.
European Commission: The Green Deal Industrial Plan: putting Europe’s net-zero industry in the lead
European Commission: State aid: Commission consults Member States on proposal for a Temporary Crisis and Transition Framework
European Commission: The Green Deal Industrial Plan