What does the EU’s Critical Raw Materials Regulation mean for people and forests?
Published by: Fern

The EU Critical Raw Materials Regulation (CRMR) sets out a range of measures to increase production of Critical Raw Materials (CRM), reduce the EU’s dependency on imports, and the environmental and social impacts of their production.

The CRMR applies mostly to materials defined as being of high strategic importance for the EU’s green, digital, defence and aerospace industries. The CRM list includes key components of batteries such as cobalt, graphite, lithium, manganese and nickel; rare earth elements, used to make magnets for wind turbines and electric vehicles; and bauxite and copper, major components of electricity networks.

The CRMR aims to increase domestic Strategic Raw Materials production thanks to strategic projects in the EU, but also to diversify imports and reduce dependence on a small number of countries via strategic projects in and Strategic Partnerships with third countries.  

The expected rapid growth in demand for CRMs will create huge challenges for countries and regions that are rich in these resources. While the CRMR acknowledges this and includes measures to mitigate the social and environmental risks and benefit partner countries, the focus on speed of implementation and on gaining security of access raises concerns as to whether such measures will be sufficient.  

There are some opportunities to mitigate the risks to forests and forest peoples such as the selection and monitoring of strategic projects, the prioritising and monitoring of strategic partnerships, the monitoring of certification schemes, the environmental footprint methodology and the engagement with the European Critical Raw Materials Board. 

It will be of critical importance that the CRMR is properly implemented, and that the impact of strategic projects and partnerships is fully understood. Such vigilance will help to identify problems if or when they emerge, and to develop appropriate responses, whether from the EU, its partner countries or civil society.

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