UNECE Framework for Resource Classification to Aid EU CRM Strategy

The massive shift to renewable energy and green technologies needed to meet the obligations under the Paris Agreement will require an exponential increase in the use of critical raw materials (rare earths, lithium, cobalt, nickel, copper, silicon etc.) by 2050.

The EU currently relies almost exclusively on imports from a small pool of exporters, and for some materials from just one supplier. The draft EU Critical Raw Materials Act presented by the European Commission on 16 March sets the EU strategy to ensure a secure and sustainable supply of critical raw materials.

The draft Act aims at building Critical Raw Materials capacity in the EU by 2030 by identifying strategic projects domestically and beyond, developing national exploration programmes, streamlining permitting procedures to reduce delays and improving access to finance.

It includes objectives to cover, by 2030, EU needs up to:

  • 10% of annual consumption for extraction

  • 40% of annual consumption for processing

  • 15% of annual consumption for recycling

The draft act also aims at fostering the development of national strategic stocks and monitoring supply chains. Finally, it aims at building partnerships with interested countries.

The United Nations Framework Classification for Resources (UNFC) will be a cornerstone of this strategy since the proposed Act stipulates that UNFC will be used to classify:

  • applications for Strategic Projects;

  • resource projects identified by Member States within their National Exploration Programmes. Member States shall make the information on their mineral occurrences containing critical raw materials available on a free access website;

  • existing and new projects at different stages of the value chain for monitoring purposes; and

  • the recovery of critical raw materials projects from extractives waste.

“Once adopted, the EU Critical Raw Materials Act will operationalize the use of UNFC in all EU Member States”, declared UNECE Executive Secretary Olga Algayerova. “UNFC will thus make a substantial contribution to the green transition we urgently need to decarbonize the economies of our region”.

In addition to the role of UNFC, the draft Act reiterates the EU and Member States’ obligations regarding access to information, public participation, and access to justice under UNECE’s Aarhus Convention, as well as environmental impact assessments in a transboundary context, under UNECE’s Espoo Convention.

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