Critical raw materials: The EU should secure its own supply



To boost an autonomous and sustainable EU supply of materials needed to produce key technologies, MEPs call for diversification, more recycling and domestic sourcing.

Critical raw materials (CRMs) are crucial for producing a broad range of goods and technologies. The transition towards digital, highly energy-efficient and climate-neutral European economies will lead to a significantly higher demand for CRMs. The technologies requiring them, such as batteries and electric engines, will be key to achieving the goals under the Paris Agreement.

Parliament calls for an EU strategy to boost Europe’s strategic autonomy and resilience regarding the supply of CRMs, by creating a secondary market for recycled resources containing these materials. Under the Parliament’s proposals, more CRMs will have to be sourced from within the EU and its neighbourhood, sources for these materials will need to be diversified, and more research should focus on sustainable alternatives to these scarce materials.

Recycling to play a key role

MEPs say that, in the short- to mid-term, focusing on recycling will not be enough on its own to meet the increasing demand for CRMs. They call for sustainable sourcing possibilities to be explored in CRM-rich member states. Parliament urges member states to make their authorisation processes for prospecting and sourcing projects more time-efficient and transparent, without lowering environmental and social standards.

CRM projects should also get better funding opportunities under the National Recovery Plans and the Taxonomy Regulation. Member states’ efforts should be pooled via an Important Project of Common Interest (IPCEI), MEPs stress.

Waste recycling is crucial, MEPs say, given the significant presence of CRMs in electrical and electronic equipment. The Commission and member states should improve their efforts to properly collect and recycle end-of-life products with CRMs instead of stockpiling them in households and landfills, or incinerating them. Stronger controls of EU exports of key CRM waste products are needed, according to MEPs. A new task force should be set up to coordinate national CRMs activities.

They call on EU member states to consider the strategic stockpiling of CRMs in order to secure their supplies, and say that future EU free trade and partnership agreements should include specific provisions on CRMs.


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European Parliament News, 18 November 2021