Europe must lead the clean tech revolution

Europe is at a turning point in its economic and political history, as it faces two unprecedented challenges.

The first challenge is sovereignty. The Covid-19 pandemic and the Ukrainian war have evidenced Europe’s state of relative dependency for some goods production and fossil fuels, with supply problems and high inflation. We do not want to go through these hard times again. To avoid it, we have agreed on the need to regain our autonomy, by de-risking our value chains, repatriating some key components and changing our energy model. In this regard, the US Inflation Reduction Act is a wake-up call. It addresses the same challenges and may have some negative impacts on our industrial base. It makes the European reaction even more imperative.

The second challenge is climate emergency. The Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is alarming: global warming will probably exceed the 1.5°C mark from 2030, and reach 2.7°C in 2100 without any further efforts. Every tenth of a degree counts. Natural disasters are increasing in intensity and frequency. Europe will not be spared.

The response to both critical challenges will determine the European Union’s place as a major power in the coming decades. The question in front of us is pretty clear: are we going to be able to preserve the planet and the prosperity of our populations?

The answer to both challenges lies in a single strategic objective: to lead the clean tech revolution. Obviously, we do have assets, resources and ambitions. It is now a matter of political will.

Over the past five years, some major initiatives have already been undertaken to build a European green industrial policy.

The European Union promoted commercial reciprocity, by implementing the carbon border adjustment mechanism, to prevent the relocation of production outside the Union and the rise of carbon-intensive products imports. It also resorted to sectorial regulations, such as the Chips Act, to support the production of semiconductors in Europe. A third key action was the launch of several important projects of common European interest (IPCEI). It includes some major steps on batteries, to switch to electric vehicles in 2035, and on hydrogen, to produce decarbonized electricity.

Europe must now accelerate and amplify this movement. What are the next steps? The Commission’s recent proposal for a Green Deal Industrial Plan includes a set of unprecedented measures.

The Net Zero Industry Act will support the development of clean industrial technologies, with a goal of 40% of European manufacturing in these sectors by 2030. Also, the Critical Raw Materials Act will encourage the production, processing and recycling in Europe of critical raw materials, with quantified targets by 2030. It represents an overall of the regulatory framework and sets ambitious production targets.

The Commission has also reviewed its Temporary Crisis and Transition Framework (TCTF) to encourage Member States to adopt support measures in essential sectors for the green transition, including through tax credits. The objective is to redirect funding to the decarbonization sectors, without undermining the level playing field and the rules of the common market.

Finally, Europe should act jointly with its Member States.

France is willing to play its role as a driving force. One of our flagship investments has been to devote 30 billion euros to ecology and energy transition through the “France Relance” plan. In addition, the 54 billion euros of the “France 2030” plan will accelerate the ecological, industrial and social transformation of the country.

I will also present in a few months to the French Parliament a green industries draft law. The aim is to make France a major clean techs producer, by streamlining the creation of new industrial sites, boosting their financing and securing a highly qualified workforce.

We still have a long way ahead of us. But I strongly believe that Europe, the old Continent that started the industrial revolution in the 19th century, can lead the clean tech revolution in the 21st century.