To support climate neutrality by 2050, a proposal for a Net-Zero Industry Act has recently been presented by the EU Commission as part of the Industrial Plan for the Green Deal. To ensure that the EU remains competitive and does not fall behind economies such as the US or China concerning the green transition, an effective European industrial policy for renewable energy and climate-neutral production is needed.
The European industry is of paramount importance, accounting for more than 20% of the EU economy, responsible for 80% of all exports of goods from the EU and creating around 35 million jobs. In view of the enormous challenges that the climate crisis poses to the entire world, industry must also be politically aligned to achieve climate neutrality in the EU by 2050. The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) recently passed by the US government aims to contribute to a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the USA by 40% by 2030, but also to strengthen and promote local production in particular. It provides billions of dollars in government subsidies for clean electricity and clean vehicles, provided they are (with a few exceptions) produced in the US. These tax incentives raise concerns in the EU about companies relocating to the US because conditions there are more favourable. While a "global subsidy race" for key technologies is to be avoided, the EU must nevertheless orient itself towards these incentive systems in order to remain attractive as a production and investment location and at the same time reduce extreme dependencies on states such as China.
Active EU industrial policy for climate-neutral energy and production
As part of the EU's Green Deal Industrial Plan, a proposal for the Net-Zero Industry Act has now been presented by the EU Commission. With its industrial policy, the EU wants to maintain and strengthen the competitiveness of its own industry and ensure that the economy is more sustainable and resilient. This way, the course is to be set for the digital and green transformation. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen concretised the objectives of the regulation: “It will create the best conditions for those sectors that are crucial for us to reach net-zero by 2050: technologies like wind turbines, heat pumps, solar panels, renewable hydrogen as well as CO2 storage.” Furthermore, there is a focus on resilient and diversified supply chains. Thus, a demand coverage of at least 40% by EU-internal production is to be achieved by 2030, which, however, is a purely political target and not a legal requirement. In addition, the regulation provides for favourable legal conditions such as shorter authorisation periods and processes and a general reduction of administrative burdens. Clean technologies are already a booming market where the EU intends to further increase its competitive advantage. When it comes to hydrogen production, for example, the EU is currently far ahead of the global competition. It is controversial that the EU Commission wants to discuss nuclear power as a "climate-neutral" option for energy production in an ideology-free way within the framework of the industrial plan.
AK demands stronger social and ecological focus
Although AK welcomes the draft regulation, it demands "a sense of proportion and social standards" for the further procedure and the final regulation. It is important to find a quick response to the billion-dollar measures in the USA in order to accelerate the green turnaround and create quality industrial jobs. However, in addition to strengthening industry and production in the EU, one must not forget about the workforce. This includes, among other, security of location and employment, opportunities for co-determination and training and further education. In addition, there is a need for an EU-wide implementation of binding standards for socially and ecologically responsible public procurement. Moreover, environmental protection and other public interests must lose none of their importance in the simplification of procedures. AK has a clear position on nuclear power: Under no circumstances should it be placed on the same level as renewable energies.
AK EUROPA: Green Deal Industrial Plan. Promoting the green transition and Europe’s net-zero industry
EU Commission: The Green Deal Industrial Plan
EU Commission: Net-Zero Industry Act
Council of the EU: EU industrial policy