Tag Archives: critical raw materials

Two Important Strategies for the Sustainable Development of the European Union

The European Commission has published in the recent days two communications that touch on important aspects of the sustainable economic development of the EU.

The first is a communication on renewable energy and the progress towards the 2020 targets. The communication presents an overview of the renewable energy industry in Europe, its prospects to 2020 and addresses the outstanding challenges for the development of the sector. The Commission points out that renewable energy constituting 62% of 2009 energy generation investments in the EU. Member States projections show that renewable energy will grow at a faster pace in the years up to 2020 than in the past. Combined Member States expect to more than double their total renewable energy consumption from 103 Mtoe in 2005 to 217 Mtoe in 2020. If all the production forecasts are fulfilled, the overall share of renewable energy in the EU will exceed the 20% target in 2020. The Commission suggests that whilst annual capital investment in renewable energy today averages €35bn, this would need to rapidly double to €70bn to ensure the EU achieves its goals.

The second is a communication on the commodity markets and raw materials. This communication was delayed due to the French request to include measures to improve the transparency of financial and commodity markets. The document makes an overview of developments on physical markets of oil, gas, electricity, agricultural commodities and raw materials. The Commission outlines the growing interdependency of financial and commodity markets and then outlines policy measures for the separate physical markets. The communication then outlines the Raw Materials Initiative and describes the 14 critical raw materials – those who have a particularly high risk of supply shortage and are particularly important for the value chain.

 

 

Security of Supply of Rare Earths: a Wake-Up Call

The Chinese government has blocked exports to Japan of rare earth minerals used in products like hybrid cars, wind turbines and guided missiles. The ban was introduced following a dispute on the detention of a Chinese fishing trawler captain by Japan. Japan has been the main buyer of Chinese rare earths for many years, using them for a wide range of industrial purposes.

This is the first time that China is ultimately using the dependency of a trade partner on rare earths to wield political pressure in an international dispute. It’s unprecedented and probably illegal under WTO rules.

However, there are no guarantees that such measures will not be imposed in the future on the European Union, too. In fact a report of a special ad-hoc working group has listed rare earths as some of the truly critical raw materials for the EU.

The recent imposition of the ban by China raises important questions about the future supply of rare earths and other rare raw materials to the EU. The EU should continue its engagement with the WTO on this issue. China should be decisively discouraged from using such policy measures in the future.

UPDATE: China has denied reports it banned the export of rare earths to Japan. More information on this will probably follow in the next few days.