Last February 2023, the European Commission published the Green Deal Industrial Plan, a strategic programme whose main theme is the achievement of a green European industry. The aim is to provide specific guidelines to strengthen the competitiveness of EU zero-emission industry and accelerate the transition to sustainability by creating a more favourable environment for productivity.

The programme is based on four pillars: a simplified regulatory environment, faster access to finance, skills growth and support for trade between resilient supply chains. Although it is still too early to know what concrete impact this will have on the sustainable and circular fashion industry, what is certain is that it will involve all kinds of industries. Let’s take a closer look at the four points.

For the first pillar of the Plan, which is based on the simplification of the regulatory plan, the Commission will propose: a Net-Zero Industry Act, aimed at supporting the production of technologies and products that are indispensable for climate neutrality goals, also guaranteeing simplified and faster authorisation procedures for the definition of strategic European projects aimed at sustainability. In addition, complementing the plan will be a regulatory proposal concerning the security of access to the supply of critical raw materials, with the dedicated Critical Raw Materials plan, including: lithium, cobalt, graphite and nickel, indispensable for building batteries, fuel cells, wind turbines and photovoltaic panels. These are key technologies to promote innovation and the path towards the ecological transition to be achieved by 2050. A further planned reform concerns the electricity market design in order to provide consumers with more predictable and lower costs on renewable energy.

The second pillar concerns faster access to finance for the zero-emission industry by proposing a Temporary Crisis and Transition Framework (TCTF) that aims to simplify procedures for state aid to renewable technology projects. Thus, the Commission foresees extending the aid provisions to all renewable technologies; further simplifying the aid provisions concerning the decarbonisation of industry; and improving investment support for the production of sustainable technologies. In general, the Commission seems to envisage more flexibility to support transition measures and simplified approvals for important projects of common European interest.

It will also be facilitated to use existing EU funds that finance innovation, production and dissemination of sustainable technologies, such as REPowerEU, InvestEU and the Innovation Fund.

The third pillar of the Green Deal Industrial involves the improvement of eco-sustainable and digital skills. This is financial support aimed at developing the sustainability skills of the workforce.

The fourth and final pillar concerns resilient supply chains, global cooperation and the commercial opening of the EU market in order to expand the network of free trade agreements. It also includes the secure and global supply of raw materials useful for technology development and an initiative of Clean Tech and Net-Zero industrial partnerships, targeting clean and zero-emission technologies.

The European initiative follows the legislative race towards a zero-emission future already underway in several countries, including the United States, Japan, India, the United Kingdom and Canada.