The transition towards a climate neutral economy, whilst preserving our climate and re-enforcing economic and industrial activity in Europe is at the same time a huge challenge for society and for our energy- and waterintensive sector. Also climate change and the accompanying changes in weather and rainfall pattern may affect at times our production sites. Companies in the sector are proactively preparing for policy changes related to achieving a climate neutral Europe by 2050, and are elaborating mitigations strategies related to for instance greenhouse gas emissions and cooling water use.
The transition toward a climate neutral society holds both risk and opportunities for the sector.
The chemical, plastics and life sciences sector plays a key role in enabling the transition towards a sustainable society by its chemical and technological processes and products portfolio’s. The chemical and plastics industry is a provider of energy-efficient and GHG reducing solutions, such as light-weight composites for automotive applications, thermal insulation materials, high-tech materials for wind mills and solar panels. Also for water retention, efficient water use and water quality the sector provides sustainable solutions. Hence the chemical and life sciences industry continuously delivers solutions for contributing to sustainability targets through its products and technologies throughout the economy.
For our production sites, the indicators on energy consumption, energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions, demonstrate how our sector has already made the switch to less climate impacting energy sources. And how energy efficiency has increased steadily making it possible to produce more with less energy and thus reducing the greenhouse gas emissions of production. The water indicators (water use and water quality) show how the sector has reduced its water footprint, both in terms of water used and in terms of discharges into the environment. In the recently launched “Learning Network Water” companies used the WWF Water Risk Filter to further explore, asses, respond and value water risks. The goal of this learning network is to identify projects to further continue to save water and mitigate the risk of water scarcity.
But more will be needed to reach the European Union 2050 targets on climate neutrality and the transition path towards a sustainable society aligned with the Paris Agreement target. The sector is investing in technologies to store and transform CO2 to a resource, and to produce carbon neutral fuels. Pilot installations producing and using green hydrogen as an energy carrier are set up. Companies are building partnerships to work towards demonstration plants on electrically heated steam cracker furnaces.
The sector needs efficient and smart enabling and supporting policy conditions to be successful. It also needs a competitive and investment-friendly framework, which takes into account the open and global dimension of the economy, the benefits of global trade, and deals with the fragmented action on climate change. The ability to become climate neutral while preserving the European Union’s economic strength will largely depend on access to sufficient competitive energy carriers and resources. Smart choices will have to be made to develop new policies that reconcile climate objectives with the open economic global context, and social aspects such as affordability and availability of alternatives with the required, major investments. Only if all three can thrive– planet, people and prosperity – will we be heading toward a sustainable, climate neutral future.