France Wants Europe to Cut Its Energy, Raw-Materials Dependence
(Bloomberg) -- France wants the European Union to reduce its dependence on countries such as Russia and China for both energy and the raw materials needed to drive the green revolution.
The 27-member bloc should ensure it’s not reliant on China when it comes to producing high-tech products like chips and solar panels, Barbara Pompili, France’s minister for the ecological transition, said via video-link at a conference in Brussels. The EU should also ensure that new energy technologies like hydrogen are produced domestically, she said.
Europe’s dependence on Russian gas has come into sharp focus this winter after energy prices soared to record highs. The Nord Stream 2 pipeline connecting Russia to Germany has yet to be approved amid the prospect of U.S. sanctions, while Belarus has threatened to shut another key link. The EU imports around 90% of its gas.
“There is one lesson we drew from the Covid crisis -- it’s that the EU must hold the rein of its sovereignty by improving the security supply of critical raw materials and limit dependence on China for example,” Pompili said.
France is due to take over the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU from Slovenia at the start of 2022. The six-month presidency will mean France is responsible for planning meetings, negotiations with other EU institutions and helping to set the council’s long-term goals.
That will include overseeing a crucial phase of negotiations over the bloc’s green deal plans and legislation designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030 from 2020 levels. The EU also wants to impose a carbon levy on energy-intensive industries, such as steel and cement, from outside the bloc.
France has also been pushing for the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, to include nuclear in its green taxonomy, a rulebook for what economic activities can be deemed environmentally-friendly. Gas could also be temporarily included, with some countries arguing that such energies are needed to smooth the green transition and prevent price spikes.
Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson emphasized the need to shift the economy toward renewable electricity sources, partly as a way to reduce dependency on other countries. She said last week the bloc would propose measures to promote energy security in the region, including an “enabling framework” for the joint procurement of strategic gas stocks.
“Geopolitical uncertainties underline again the vulnerability that comes with a dependency on foreign fossil fuels,” Simson said Monday at the same conference. “Overall, we will become more independent, but some new dependencies may emerge.”
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