European Parliament fails to keep Net Zero Industry Act focused

Posted on November, 21 2023

In today’s plenary vote, the European Parliament has cast its verdict on the Net Zero Industry Act. Despite efforts by some MEPs to stick to the main objectives of the regulation, a majority chose to align with the Industry Committee's stance, which opens the door to a multitude of unproven technologies. WWF also regrets that the European Parliament text fails to limit the deployment of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) to unavoidable emissions in targeted sectors, and does not exclude projects within Natura 2000 areas.
As part of the European Commission’s Green Deal Industrial Plan (GDIP) announced in early 2023, the Net Zero Industry Act (NZIA) is part of the EU's direct response to the US Inflation Reduction Act, designed to help the EU reach its 2030 climate targets while boosting key green technologies within the EU. By broadening the list of strategic net-zero technologies to unproven technologies which are not yet commercially available and/or could take decades to become so, such as nuclear fusion or Small Modular Reactors, the  European Parliament agreed to let go of the main objective of the regulation. Due to the strategic label given to the listed net-zero technologies, these will get access to faster permitting processes and financial support under NZIA. WWF regrets this decision.

“With this vote the European Parliament has lost its green focus and is instead relying on hocus-pocus. The list of strategic technologies was supposed to target those with a proven and substantial impact in achieving the EU’s 2030 climate targets, such as wind and solar, heat pumps, batteries, electricity grids and renewable hydrogen for targeted sectors. But in what can only be described as magical thinking, the Parliament has opened up the list to imaginary silver bullets that may never materialise, meaning taxpayers’ money will be diverted from the key green technologies needed to decarbonise the European industry on time,” said Camille Maury, Senior Policy Officer on the Decarbonisation of Industry at WWF European Policy Office.

“It also sends the wrong message to European manufacturers, as focusing on scaling up the right green technologies is what will provide an opportunity for the future of EU industry. Achieving the EU 2030 climate targets and supporting the decarbonisation of European industry while boosting its competitiveness is possible, but only with a more focused Regulation.” added Maury. 

WWF also strongly regrets that MEPs did not support limiting the deployment of CCS technologies to unavoidable emissions in targeted sectors. CCS must not be used as an excuse for continued fossil fuel use and it is clearly not a silver bullet to address industrial emissions, in particular before 2030. There needs to be a very limited and well-targeted use of CCS in specific sectors to address emissions for which there are no alternative abatement options. 

The European parliament also failed to exclude the deployment of industrial clusters, termed ‘Net Zero Industry Valleys’, in Natura 2000 sites. Placing these Net Zero Industry Valleys in Natura 2000 areas without any environmental impact assessment risks harming the environment and biodiversity. While it is crucial to think through where new manufacturing sites should be deployed, it does not make sense to consider protected natural areas as possible  target sites. Proper spatial planning, well staffed permitting authorities able to carry out procedures quickly and full consultation of local communities is also essential to the rapid scaling up of green tech that we need. 

Next the Council of the European Union will decide on its general approach prior to starting the trilogues negotiations, probably in December. 

Florian Cassier
Climate Communications Officer
WWF European Policy Office 
+32 479 33 92 11
Two employees in a solar panel factory
Two employees in a solar panel factory
© Alvaraz