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Recommendations for the European chemicals industry call for a greener approach

28/07/2011

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A report published by the High Level Group of the European chemicals industry has called for a shift to ‘greener’ methods in the sector, in order to protect its competitiveness.

The European chemicals industry is a pillar of the region’s economy, employing 1.2 million people and generating €537 billion turnover in 2007. Its competitiveness depends on the sector’s ability to adopt a greener approach according to the final report of the High Level Group (HLG) on the competitiveness of the EU chemicals industry. The HLG was launched by the European Commission in 2007 and consists of senior policy makers from the public and private sectors together with representatives of civil society.

Investments in eco-innovation, responsible use of natural resources and greater energy efficiency are seen as necessary steps towards sustainability. The report identified three key challenges:

  • Difficulties concerning energy and feedstock, and the resulting impact on costs;
  • Climate change and the resulting global environmental issues; and
  • Increased competition from emerging countries, and the construction of barriers to access in these same nations.

In addition, the HLG report set-out the factors essential to ensure the continuing success of the sector.

  • An increased emphasis on innovation and research complemented by the strengthening of related networks and clusters;
  • Responsible use of resources, matched by energy-efficiency innovations to help meet Europe’s energy-reduction targets; and
  • The opening up of world markets in the interests of greater competition.

A key common theme of the report’s recommendations relates to the necessary shift towards greener practices, and an increased reliance on eco-innovation. In particular, it champions innovation networks and clusters, describing them as essential tools for fostering cross-sectoral solutions to both the industry’s problems and the challenges of climate change and energy efficiency.

The report therefore recommends that the industry increase reliance on on-site generation in the shape of combined heat and power facilities.

In an effort to curb the industry’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the report champions the application of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology. The EU Directive on carbon capture and geological storage in January 2008 is set to facilitate the development of CCS by removing unwarranted legislative barriers. Moreover, the EU will allocate €300 million in funding for the construction of 12 demonstration plants.

While CCS technology will not be able to deal with the chemical industry’s GHG emissions before 2020, it represents a viable future solution. CCS pilot and commercial demonstration projects are therefore seen as essential for the European chemicals industry and the region as a whole.

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