Net Zero Industry Act turns into recipe for missing 2030 targets

Posted on February, 06 2024

This afternoon, the European Parliament and Council came to a provisional deal on the Net Zero Industry Act (NZIA). This should have given an urgent boost to existing clean technologies. However by broadening the initial list of net-zero technologies to technologies which are not yet commercially available and/or could take decades to become so, the European institutions have effectively dropped the main objective of the regulation, which ‘was’ to achieve the EU’s 2030 climate targets. WWF regrets this decision and fears the EU is shooting itself in the foot.
First announced under the Commission’s Green Deal Industrial Plan in early 2023, the Net Zero Industry Act is part of the EU's direct response to the US Inflation Reduction Act. It was designed to help the EU reach its 2030 climate targets while boosting the production of key green technologies within the EU.

Unfortunately the European Parliament and Council decided to steer away from the original list of green technologies, losing the focus of the act and opening it up to many more unproven technologies. Projects from technologies mentioned in the final list can become “net-zero strategic projects” if a Member State wishes it. It will be up to each Member State to decide which technology they want to consider as ‘strategic’ and finance the deployment. This means technologies with a proven track-record for quick decarbonisation, such as solar and wind, are placed on the same footing as unproven and expensive ones, such as nuclear fission and Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). These projects with a ‘net zero strategic’ label will all get faster permitting processes and financial support under NZIA.

“With this final deal, the European Parliament and Council have lost their green focus and are instead relying on hocus-pocus. This Regulation was supposed to target only technologies 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. Broadening the scope of the Net Zero Industry Act, while public investments are limited, risks diverting taxpayers’ money to magical future techno-fixes, and away from the available and proven key green technologies we need to achieve the EU’s 2030 climate targets and decarbonise our 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 and investors, 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 will now require Member States to ‘pick’ the right green technologies from this terribly long list.” added Maury

WWF also strongly regrets that co-legislators 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 is clearly not a silver bullet to address all industrial emissions, in particular before 2030. As the European Commission just released its strategy on Industrial Carbon Management Strategy (ICMS), there needs to be a very limited and well-targeted use of CCS in sectors that have no other alternative abatement options to fully decarbonise. 

Florian Cassier
Climate Communications Officer
WWF European Policy Office
+32 479 33 92 11
Construction of a wind turbine
© Ashden