Who cares about lead anyway? Improving awareness and understanding of lead and lead batteries

EU communications programme “in support of lead advocacy objectives”

Gert Meylemans (EUROBAT, Belgium)

Saying that batteries have been in the center of attention in recent years – from policy makers, to media or society at large – would be a clear understatement.

Batteries have indeed now been generally recognized as enabler for the decarbonisation of transport and energy and as such assist in meeting the targets set in the Paris Agreement on Climate Change from 2016. Since then the EU Commission has launched a number of initiatives, aimed at putting Europe on the map as one of the major battery players. The Battery Alliance from 2017 and the Battery Action plan from 2018 are the most relevant examples of that.

You cannot open a newspaper or website without finding a battery-related story: on all kinds of hybrid automotive applications, or on electric bicycles and steps invading our cities. On energy, storage batteries, linked to renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, recognized as the ultimate tool to mitigate global warming. Or on the role of batteries in logistics and telecoms, reducing carbon footprint or ensuring reliable backup power. Also, no day goes by without seeing headlines on new battery technologies, further innovation in battery raw materials or opening of new production facilities.

But the end consumer as well has clearly “discovered batteries” and its green and convenient credentials. Driven by various external events and an overall “EU Green consciousness”, e-mobility e.g. finally seems to be on track towards a break-through and overall acceptance. I think we all agree this overall interest in batteries and their applications, is beneficial to our whole industry, regardless the technology.

At the same time however, changes in the EU regulatory framework bring both challenges and opportunities. EU institutions are currently looking at various dossiers, affecting the whole battery industry. The most relevant are the Batteries Directive, End-of-life vehicles (ELV) and REACH. In its communication strategy mainly targeting audiences such as EU policy makers – MEPs, EU Commission officials, member countries – and other stakeholders, EUROBAT always highlights the fact that no battery technology should be banned as all of them will be needed if we are to meet the ambitious CO2 reduction targets.

Communication activities are essential to get our messages across. With lead metal compounds potentially being added to the REACH authorisation list, EUROBAT, in alignment with ILA and BCI and with assistance of its members and partner associations, decided to kick off an important comunications and advocacy project, defending and giving recognition to lead batteries.

Thanks to the 360° and comprehensive campaign involving advocacy and communications, the EU Commission seems convinced that adding lead compounds to the REACH authorisation list would now not be the best option and will probably favour the Occupational Health & Safety path.

In parallel, and in view of the EU elections, EUROBAT also rolled out in February of this year another more agnostic campaign – summarising the key asks of the battery industry for the next European Parliament and Commission term – called the “EUROBAT Election Manifesto 2019-2024”.

These demands are crucial for achieving the decarbonisation goals set by the EU Commission, while boosting Europe’s economic and technical performance.
First of all, recognition and promotion of the role played by all battery technologies, second promotion and stimulation of battery production in Europe and ensuring a stable business environment and fair competition among technologies and last but not least the creation of a coherent and supportive regulatory framework for sustainable batteries, in line with the principles of the circular economy.

We are convinced that the more EUROBAT communicates on the benefits of batteries and on its applications, the whole industry will take advantage, including lead-based batteries.

More details on the EUROBAT technology-neutral Communications program such as: audiences, channels and messages, will be clarified in the presentation.

Biography

Gert joined EUROBAT, the Association of European Automotive and Industrial Battery Manufacturers, as Senior Communications Manager in August 2018.

EUROBAT is committed to better position its members, the industry at large, as well as the association itself. The battery industry is currently, but also in the next years, facing opportunities as well as several legislative challenges. It is Gert’s role to strategically communicate key messages to the available channels and make sure EUROBAT’s voice will be better heard in the Brussels arena and across Europe.

One of his core responsibilities is to further extend relations with the key players in the supplier value chain, as well as with the major industry stakeholder associations.

In terms of messaging, Gert’s role is to highlight batteries’ sustainable credentials due to their storage capacity of renewable energy, role in reducing CO2 emissions and advanced recyclability.

Batteries also literally keep vehicles, industries and people on the move.

Reminding stakeholders about the economic value of the battery industry – EU employment of 30.000 persons and turnover of 6.5 bn euros – is also one of his duties.

Gert, who holds a degree in Marketing and Communications, brings to the association more than 25 years of expertise and international experience in automotive PR and corporate communications. He previously worked at Nissan Belux, Bridgestone EMEA and more recently as a freelance communications consultant at CLEPA, the European Association of Automotive Suppliers.

Gert Meylemans

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