European corporations demand “industrial deal” in declaration to European Commission

More than 70 companies from across Europe have come together to demand an industrial deal from the European Commission and member states under fear of falling behind competition in the USA and China, reports business newspaper Handelsblatt. The companies together authored the Antwerp Declaration – a plan to complement the Commission’s existing Green Deal – with the aim of maintaining high-quality jobs for European workers. Behind the declaration are mainly companies from energy intensive industries like chemicals, steel and building materials. Within the document, the companies are asking for a range of interventions, from the use of incentives by EU states in the internal market to promote the use of green technologies, through to the relaxation of restrictive regulations on the EU level.

Fears that the EU will become uncompetitive in the future are centred around increasing exports from China, and billion-dollar funding initiatives in the U.S. to attract investments in green technologies, reports Handelsblatt. “If politics doesn’t change, Europe will lose even more industrial companies,” said Karen McKee, vice president of Exxon Mobil, to Handelsblatt. Though based in the U.S., Exxon Mobil has signed the declaration. Of the 20 billion dollars the oil company plans to invest in green technologies, none will go to the EU as the company says the bloc’s regulations are too complex.

The declaration itself, however, is likely to meet resistance from environmental groups, who fear it will weaken the goals of the Green Deal, reports Handelsblatt. Recently, industry voices have criticised the Commission for going too far with their ambitious climate policy, leading new climate commissioner of the EU, Wopke Hoekstra, to promise he would listen to industry more. The association European Environmental Bureau (EEB) said Belgium’s government used the summit held under its presidency of the EU Council would help industry to politically implement “the prioritisation of polluters’ profits over public health.” The EEB criticised the Antwerp summit for being a “private one-to-one discussion between industry and politicians” that “starkly contrasts with the hurdles faced by the citizens and NGOs alike in having their voices heard.”

The Green Deal is a policy package which aims to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. It has received some resistance, for example the ongoing farmers protests across many EU countries. Already in February, the EU proposed a “Green Deal Industrial Plan” to try and enhance the bloc’s competitiveness on the path to net zero.