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23 May 2024

European raw materials laws, policies and partnerships & the fast and fair transition

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The European Union (EU) and its member states, like other economies across the globe, have stepped up their efforts in securing supply of key minerals for renewable energy technologies, electrification and batteries. The EU's Critical Raw Materials Act (CRMA) entered into force on 23 May 2024 – for background on the run-up to it, please refer to this story. The Union has also formed raw materials partnerships with a number of resource-rich countries, and individual member states maintain bilateral raw materials partnerships.

However, while the transition to zero carbon is essential, civil society has warned from the start that the EU's minerals-intense transition pathway and trade policies for critical transition minerals may worsen environmental and social issues in resource-rich countries especially in the Global South. The CRMA's lack of credible human rights and environmental safeguards and demand reduction targets has been met with much criticism. SOMO and many other organizations call for the EU to reduce its resource consumption and to implement strict regulations ensuring that mineral sourcing adheres to the highest social and environmental standards.

Mining has consistently been the most dangerous sector for Human Rights Defenders since the Resource Centre began documenting attacks in 2015 – and transition mineral mining operations are not an exception. This year's update of our Transition Minerals Tracker records 125 allegations associated with access to water and/or pollution alone, along with many other negative mining impacts.

There is growing awareness – including among European governments and business – that a fast transition towards zero carbon will have to be a fair one. It cannot come at the cost of increased risks of local human rights violations and environmental destruction, nor can the world afford a perpetuation or even deepening of global inequalities.