Speech by Vice-President Šefčovič at the Press conference on sustainability requirements for batteries in the EU

Source: European Commission (EC) i, published on Thursday, December 10 2020.

Good morning, everyone!

I am thrilled to stand here today because we are taking another giant leap forward into a greener future. Our proposal on batteries will not only modernise the EU's legislative framework, but once adopted, it will also revolutionise the battery market.

First, let me take you back three years ago. The EU battery industry was hardly on the map. Today, Europe is a global battery hotspot, with some 15 Gigafactories emerging across our Member States. By 2025, we should be manufacturing enough battery cells each year to power at least six million electric cars. In other words, we are well on track towards strategic autonomy in this increasingly important sector.

The global demand for batteries is expected to see a 14-fold increase by 2030. The EU could account for some 17 percent of that demand, and thus would become the second largest market behind China. But a green, sustainable future - which Europe has signed up to - should be powered by green, sustainable batteries.

This clearly requires a new, future-proof regulatory framework to ensure that only the greenest, best performing and safest batteries make it onto the EU market. To set such a global golden standard has been among the key priorities under the European Battery Alliance - and today, we are delivering.

In fact, it will help accelerate our own work. All industrial players in Europe will now have a clear, predictable legal environment that supports them in innovating and preparing for the expected surge in electro-mobility by 2023.

In practice, it means that batteries placed on our market - regardless of their origin - will be sustainable, circular, high performing and safe along their entire life cycle; that they will be repurposed, collected and recycled, becoming a source of valuable secondary raw materials. For this, the proposal establishes specific requirements at each stage of the battery value chain.

The new sustainability requirements in particular, are a real game-changer. I will elaborate on two of them.

First, our proposal introduces progressive requirements to minimise the carbon footprint of a battery over its life cycle.

  • They go from an information requirement in the form of a carbon footprint declaration as of mid-2024, to classification into carbon footprint performance classes as of 2026, and ultimately, to maximum life cycle carbon footprint thresholds as of mid-2027.
  • This will promote even further the use of clean energy.

Second, we are equally ambitious on the social footprint of batteries. Manufacturers of industrial and EV batteries will have to demonstrate they are sourcing their raw materials ethically, responsibly and in a transparent way.

  • This is essential, as the demand for raw materials is only going to rise, even as Europe finds itself heavily dependent on imported raw materials, including three key ingredients in batteries - cobalt (currently 87 percent dependent on imports), graphite (98 percent) and lithium (100 percent).
  • Therefore, building on the world's best due diligence standards - those of the OECD - we will require compliance through a third-party verification.

In a moment, my colleagues, Commissioners Sinkevicius and Breton will elaborate on other mandatory requirements. I will just underline that by creating competition centred around sustainability, the regulation will have an immediate impact on a market that until now has largely been driven by price.

Time is of the essence, however. Therefore, already today, I invite Member States and the European Parliament to give their utmost attention to this proposal and adopt it by 2022. By doing so, we can make the most of our first mover advantage, provide legal certainty and unlock further large-scale investments.

Before I hand over to my colleagues, let me emphasise that this proposal comes to you as result of outstanding collaboration within the Commission, proving yet again that a cross-cutting approach is the right recipe to boost our strategic autonomy in key industrial sectors. Therefore, my thanks go to executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans, Commissioner Sinkevicius, Commissioner Breton and all our teams.