The European sustainable industry strategy
As the most important industrial continent in the world, Europe has great responsibilities in leading the way. We have set a clear ambition: to become the first climate neutral economy by 2050. President Von Der Leyen has made this the central pillar of this Commission’s political priorities, since an ambitious industrial policy is a prerequisite for the successful transition towards a climate-neutral economy.
Our vision is of a competitive and sustainable EU industry that contributes to the strategic autonomy of the EU. One that is firmly rooted in the European social model, and makes the most of its strengths while seizing new opportunities and tackling the “twin transitions” that are the Green Deal and digitalization. Industry will play a central role in leading this dual transformation.
As theCommissioner for Industry, one of my main tasks in this mandate is to support the green transformation of our industry, ensure it continues to prosper and deliver benefits for Europe and its citizens. To translate this ambition into concrete actions, my teams and I have been fully mobilized during the 100 days of the Von Der Leyen Commission to present a new European Industrial Strategy taking into account this twin transition, together with geostrategic challenges underlined by the outbreak of Coronavirus. This strategy puts the importance of sustainable transformation right at the very center, also because it can maintain Europe’s strategic autonomy in the context of global action. Of course, this is an incredible challenge. Transforming our industrial base on this scale requires a generation – 25 years – and consistent efforts by all industrial actors and different government levels. Together we will ensure that this base is globally integrated, sustainable and competitive.
We have little time to prepare this transition and set it on the right track – but we will make it together by starting now because this challenge is also an incredible opportunity.
We will seize it to ensure that our industries become world leaders in green technologies and reap the benefits of being the first movers and early adopters. Digitalization is a key enabler of circular economy and the shift towards climate neutrality. The good news today is that we are ahead of global competitors when it comes to patents, clean technology and the regulatory framework.
But while Europe leads in increased resource and material efficiency, at the same time China and India produce carbon-intensive products for consumption by Americans and Europeans. Global as well as internal market aspects impose upon us to get better at scale-up and investment in low carbon technology. Our European efforts must surpass so called “carbon leakage” which could lead to relocation of companies to places with lesser climate protection.
The pathways we choose to decarbonize our production and consumption patterns will be compatible with WTO commitments with international partners. As an example of the actions that the Commission is taking, a highly sensitive and strategic point is that European value chains are vastly dependent on foreign suppliers of critical raw materials, and manufacturing industries are facing strong competition from fast-growing economies on the global raw materials markets.
That means that we have to ensure strategic autonomy – access to sustainable raw materials – such as rare earths or cobalt that are crucial for the future of the EU industrial value chains, particularly e-mobility, batteries, renewable energies, aerospace, defense and other digital applications. Improving the diversification of raw materials’ sourcing and good circular economy practices that result in higher recycling rates could both help to reduce our dependencies.
This challenge is recognized in the EU Industrial Strategy, which in addition to horizontal measures to create favorable framework conditions, provides more targeted strategic actions along value chains.
In order to remain globally competitive in key technologies and strategic value chains, the EU will encourage more risk-taking and step up investment in research and innovation. By announcing a new alliance on clean hydrogen together with our new industrial strategy, we have set the pace, allowing Member States and companies of all sizes to partner. We have a strong existing industrial base, talents, and most crucially, sufficient political will to make it happen.
Europe has a potentially unique leadership role to play globally as a climate neutral market: low carbon technology that results in circular products and services are the way to get there.