The Brussels authority presented the so-called Net Zero Industry Act, which Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced at the beginning of the year. This is Brussels' response to the US Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which earmarks around $370 billion (around €350 billion) for clean technologies.
With the EU legislative package, around 40 percent of the annual demand for clean technologies is to be produced in the EU itself by 2030. "Green tech" industries can hope for more funding and accelerated approval processes. Wind power and photovoltaic systems, heat pumps and green hydrogen are to be promoted, but also the controversial underground carbon storage. This means that Europe could become the "first climate-neutral continent by 2050," promised Deputy Commission President Frans Timmermans.
After a massive tug-of-war behind the scenes, nuclear power is now also part of the package with which the EU wants to achieve its climate goals. France in particular had demanded this, but nuclear-critical countries such as Germany and Austria rejected it. Because of the dispute, the presentation of the plans had been delayed.
Nuclear energy is "clean," said French EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton, who is in charge of the project. According to the proposed law, only fourth-generation "advanced technologies" should benefit from the plans. These include mini nuclear power plants, which France and Poland, for example, want to build.
In addition, the Commission presented plans for greater independence for Europe from China when it comes to important raw materials. In the future, no more than 65 percent of annual EU consumption should come from a single third country. To date, the EU has sourced rare earths or magnesium almost entirely from China.
New mining projects are planned for this, which should cover ten percent of the EU's need for important raw materials. In addition, a recycling rate of 15 percent is planned for lithium or rare earths, which are used in mobile phones or car batteries. However, these targets are non-binding.
In addition, the EU Commission wants to set up a "hydrogen bank" - an auction platform where green hydrogen producers can get financing to offset their potentially more expensive production costs than fossil fuels. In the long term, this should make green hydrogen production more profitable and attract more private investors. According to the Commission, the EU wants to produce ten million tons of green hydrogen itself by 2030 and import another ten million tons.
The plans are now going to the EU states and the European Parliament for consultation. In the case of green technologies, controversies are expected, for example over the role of nuclear power, as EU diplomats said.
Some fundamental criticism came from the industry. The association of the European chemical industry (Cefic) spoke of a "zero industry law" that was in no way comparable to the US funding plans. The Brussels think tank Bruegel had previously criticized the leaked plans as "blatantly protectionist" because the "Europe first" principle was behind it.
The environmental association WWF demanded that neither nuclear power nor carbon storage should be considered "future technology". Green politicians made similar statements in the EU Parliament. The chairman of the European SPD, Jens Geier, on the other hand, declared that the industrial law could "create long-term jobs and accelerate the expansion of Europe's sustainable industries".