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EU unveils green industry deal to compete with US

Brussels, Feb 2 (IANS) The European Commission has unveiled its plan to meet the challenges posed by the US’ Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and keep up with a worldwide race in subsidy schemes for green industries.

Net-zero industries are most important in the fight against climate change, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Wednesday when presenting the Green Deal Industrial Plan.

The plan is built on four pillars: a conducive regulatory environment for the net-zero industries, national and EU funding, ensuring proper skills for the green transition and an ambitious trade agenda, Xinhua news agency reported.

It is designed to ease restrictions on state aid and unlock huge private financing for clean-tech production in the EU.

To that end, the European Commission will have to consult with EU countries to amend the current state aid framework, including increasing notification thresholds for the support of green investments.

Margrethe Vestager, executive vice president of the Commission and commissioner for competition, cautioned that the proposed amendment should be temporary, well targeted in size and scope, and pending real benefits.

“So it comes with a risk. Some countries will be able to deliver far more money than others,” said Vestager.

She added the new provisions should match those sectors affected by the IRA — and those only — such as batteries for electric vehicles and wind turbines.

EU countries have generally agreed that part of the IRA, Joe Biden’s $369-billion package, is a threat to the competitiveness of specific key sectors for the green transition of the European industry, according to Vestager.

Faced with the dual challenges of surging energy prices following the Russian-Ukraine conflict and the potential relocation of European green industries induced by the IRA, the EU has chosen to carefully nurture rather than damage its relationship with the US.

Von der Leyen argued in her speech on Wednesday that the EU countries “welcome” the US bill, and that “the fight against climate change is a must”.

But she insisted in the meantime that there should be a level playing field in the global competition and in the EU’s single market.

“This is so important for us,” she added.

Von der Leyen said the Commission’s proposals would be debated during the EU summit next week.