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European Union boosts green technologies to respond to U.S. and China

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    The European Union (EU) announced Thursday its plans to pressure companies in the bloc to produce more clean technology, as a way to face competition supported by state aid, particularly in the United States and China.

    The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, assured industries that produce green technologies, such as solar and wind energy, that obtaining permits and authorizations for manufacturing processes will become easier under the new plan.

    The institution expects at least 40% of green technology to be produced in the EU by 2030.

    These targets are embodied in the Zero Net Emission Industry Act, which aims to be the central pillar in the EU's bid to become a "climate neutral" economy with zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

    "We will continue to trade with our partners. Not everything will be done in Europe, but more must be done in Europe," commission vice-president Frans Timmermans told reporters in Brussels.

    This proposal had been expected on Tuesday this week, but a sharp divergence within the commission over the eventual inclusion of nuclear power - a low-carbon energy - delayed the announcement.

    In the end, nuclear power appears in the text, but the provisions only apply to fourth-generation reactors, which do not yet exist, but which would reduce waste to almost zero.

    Another proposal launched Thursday by the Commission aims to secure the supply of critical raw materials to produce goods that consumers use every day, including smartphones.

    Responses to Washington and Beijing

    Green technology production took on greater urgency after the United States unveiled a huge $370 billion program last year to favor U.S. products, including subsidies for clean energy.

    European companies have warned that subsidies in other countries coupled with lower energy bills could tempt companies from the continent to Asia or North America.

    In addition, European institutions have complained that the U.S. plan will discriminate against Europe's industry.

    Part of the EU's response to the U.S. plan included a controversial relaxation of Europe's rigid subsidy rules, especially for green technology projects.

    For that reason, a week ago the Commission authorized countries in the bloc to match subsidies offered in other countries.

    By 2030, the cleantech sector is expected to be worth some 600 billion euros (about $630 billion) worldwide, roughly more than three times current levels.

    With its proposal on raw materials, the Commission seeks to secure access to these materials, many of which it currently imports from China, to avoid being dependent on one country for a specific product.

    China currently dominates many sensitive sectors for the EU, such as semiconductors, critical minerals, batteries and solar panels.

    "We have resources in Europe. We must find the means to extract them," said European Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton.

    The text says the EU should not be dependent on a single country for more than 65% of imports of any strategic raw material as early as 2030.

    But there would be room for maneuver if the EU has a "strategic partnership on raw materials" with a country that is not part of the bloc.

    Source: AFP

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