As the EU transitions to net zero, batteries will play a crucial enabling role in the decarbonisation of the transport and energy sectors. In Europe, at least 38 gigafactories are planned or announced, with a total estimated capacity of 462 GWh in 2025 alone, enough to power around 8 million battery electric cars.
In light of this, in December 2020 the European Commission proposed a new sustainable battery law – the first of its kind – aiming at creating a sustainable battery industry. The proposal is an opportunity to introduce smart regulations that can underpin the rapid development of a world-leading battery supply chain in Europe by putting in place future-proof rules to ensure batteries both made in and coming into Europe are sustainable, and prevent and avoid harm to frontline communities and the planet.
But T&E, Amnesty International, the European Environmental Bureau and other NGOs are alarmed at possible delays to the new rules. The Presidency of the Council of the EU recently put forward a text that proposes:
- a delay of up to 66 months (four years compared to the Commission proposal) for the introduction of rules aiming at reducing batteries’ carbon footprint;
- a delay of 36 months (two years compared to the Commission proposal) for the phase-in of mandatory supply chain checks for environmental and human rights abuses;
- a delay of two years or more for performance and durability requirements for batteries.
Today the 41 NGOs are writing to all EU Environment Ministers asking them to help ensure the rules are adopted and implemented as swiftly as possible. The NGOs caution against delays to the rules taking effect, but also against EU governments holding up the legislative process.
“These rules could ensure that Europe’s nascent battery industry commits to addressing human rights and environmental harm from the get go,” said Cecilia Mattea, clean vehicles officer at T&E. “But Europe’s battery industry is being set up now, and not in three or four year’s time. If Environment Ministers support these delays they’re effectively saying they don’t want clean and ethical batteries, and they’ll be missing a golden opportunity to support a new sustainable and strategic European industry.”
Piotr Barczak, senior policy officer for waste at the EEB, said: “Our governments have known about the revision of the Battery Regulation for over a year, yet they still try to postpone any meaningful improvements. This would mean extra years of human rights abuses and environmental harm linked to resources extraction.”
To find out more, download the letter to the Environment Ministers.