The European Union “cannot achieve” climate neutrality without critical raw materials like lithium and rare earths, says Commission vice-president Maroš Šefčovič. It now needs to be “much more strategic” in relations with supplier countries in order to ensure the bloc’s “strategic autonomy,” he argues.
Maroš Šefčovič is the EU Commissioner for foresight and interinstitutional relations, who is coordinating work on the European Battery Alliance. He spoke to EURACTIV’s energy and environment editor, Frédéric Simon.
The EU is pushing the concept of “open strategic autonomy” on raw materials, by developing its own supplies of lithium and rare earths while diversifying import supplies
Europe can be 80% self-dependent on lithium by 2025 and have its own rare earth mining and refining capacity ready by 2030
The EU is talking with countries like Canada, Australia Serbia, Albania and Ukraine about opportunities on raw materials and is requesting “reciprocity” in trade relations with China in return for granting access to its single market
“Urban mining” will also contribute to the EU’s push for raw materials autonomy, with €1 billion going to recycling R&I in the next seven years (2021-2027)
EU Commission is preparing a new regulation to ensure all batteries sold in Europe are the “greenest, safest and most sustainable on this planet,” including those imported into the bloc
This will include a “battery passport” to ensure batteries and the raw materials they contain are sourced in an environmentally and socially responsible way
Countries that don’t comply with new EU rules on batteries could be imposed a border carbon tax to ensure a level playing field