European Critical Raw Materials Act without aluminium?
The European Commission has recently proposed a comprehensive package of measures to ensure a secure, diversified, affordable and sustainable supply of critical raw materials for the EU. The Critical Raw Materials Act (CRMA) aims to overcome European dependency on strategic raw materials, with one of the main objectives being to both secure and strengthen the supply chains of these materials. After all, according to forecast data, the demand for critical raw materials in Europe is expected to increase dramatically in the future. However, Europe is heavily dependent on imports, which often come from suppliers in only one third country with a near-monopolistic position. Given these strategic dependencies in supply chains, it is crucial for the EU to minimise the associated risks in order to strengthen the resilience of its economy. Failure to manage these risks could ultimately lead to the EU's inability to achieve its climate action and digitalisation goals.
The Critical Raw Materials Act, adopted in March, aims to harness the potential of the EU's internal market and external partnerships to diversify and make more resilient the supply chains for critical raw materials within the EU. The regulation aims to improve monitoring and mitigation of impending disruptions and to steer the economy in a circular and sustainable direction. What makes one wonder: the Commission has not identified aluminium as a strategic material.
The European Critical Raw Materials Act
Raw materials are essential for a wide range of strategic sectors, such as net zero industry, digital industry, aerospace and defence. The current regulation includes both an updated list of critical raw materials and a list of strategic raw materials that are necessary for advanced technologies, relevant to Europe's green and digital goals, and for defence and space applications, and for which supplies may not be secured in the future. The Commission has already identified strategic technologies and sectors as part of the process of fleshing out the Green Deal.
The regulation aims to create overall secure and resilient supply chains in the EU, and to significantly improve the refining, processing and recycling of critical raw materials. The regulation also aims to work more with reliable trading partners around the world so that the EU is no longer so dependent on just one or a few countries. Combined with the electricity market reform and the net-zero industry regulation, the critical raw material measures are intended to create a conducive regulatory environment for climate-neutral industry and the competitiveness of the European economy, as announced in the Industrial Plan for the Green Deal.
But one material is still missing.
Aluminium not identified as strategic material
The raw materials on the lists are expected to play a crucial role in the development of key technologies such as wind power generation, hydrogen storage or batteries, technologies that are essential for the transition to a green and digital economy - just as aluminium is essential. The pursuit of climate goals, the Green Deal, the shift to battery electric vehicles, the expansion of renewables and grids cannot be achieved without aluminium. Without a strong, cohesive and resilient aluminium competence chain, the risk of strategic dependence will only be shifted rather than overcome. So why has aluminium not been identified as a strategic material by the EU?
No Green Deal without aluminium
Rob van Gils, President Aluminium Deutschland
European Aluminium also underlines the crucial role of aluminium as a strategic raw material for the green, sustainable transformation. While the proposed Critical Raw Materials Act is a positive first step, the regulation must be designed to promote and facilitate European production if it is to achieve its stated goals. Aluminium should be included in the regulation to reflect the value chain approach set out in the Net-Zero Industry Act.
Aluminium as a raw material for a sustainable future
Aluminium will play a crucial role in Europe's transformation to a sustainable future. It is a key component in almost all clean energy technologies prioritised in the Net-Zero Industry Act, including PV solar, wind turbines, grid technologies and batteries.
The regulation has great potential in principle: with sensible policies and the right implementation, both the Critical Raw Materials Act and the Net-Zero Industry Act can reinforce Europe's status as a global climate leader and provide important support to industry. Investing in European raw material production and recycling can strengthen strategic autonomy and security of supply and pave the way to a greener future.