EU’s Critical Raw Materials Act: Civil Society Demands Stronger Environmental Standards, Indigenous Rights Protection, and Demand Reduction Targets

On Monday the 13th of November the co-legislators reached a political agreement on the Critical Raw Materials Act (CRMA). The CRMA proposal was published in March 2023 and yet the final text is being agreed upon at the time of this publication. The EU Raw Materials Coalition, representing more than 40 Civil Society Organisations from across Europe, highlights some main concerns with regard to the agreement.

Europe has to be a global leader in circularity and demand reduction. Increasing the recycling target to 25% is a step in the right direction, with the potential to contribute to reducing the overall Raw Materials consumption and boosting circularity. While the CRMA includes language calling to work towards reducing raw material demand, it fails to incorporate a concrete target for raw material consumption reduction.

It is very concerning that the principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) is not explicitly mentioned in the official communication on the CRMA by the European Council. More than half of Critical Raw Materials are located on or near Indigenous Peoples’ territories. The CRMA is an opportunity to avoid repeating past mistakes and lead the transition in the right direction. The CRMA must ensure that Indigenous Peoples’ rights are guaranteed and FPIC is included in the text.

The prominent role the regulation gives to certification schemes as a tool to attest compliance with sustainability criteria for strategic projects is alarming. As evidence shows, they are not suited to prove compliance with human rights and environmental standards. Nonetheless, the coalition welcomes the minimum fitness criteria for the schemes which have been adopted, such as multistakeholder governance, audits on site and anti-bribery and anti-corruption mechanisms. While the criteria could have been significantly stronger, it is a step in the right direction.

As the presidency navigates the technical negotiations, it’s imperative to underscore the necessity of embracing high ambitions regarding environmental standards on all levels. This includes maintaining the EU’s resolute stance on keeping mining activities out of the deep sea. The fragile ecosystems in the deep sea are unique and vulnerable, warranting steadfast protection from any form of resource extraction.


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