The chemical industry is an essential part of integrated value chains in Europe and must remain so in the future.

The chemical industry, categorised as energy intensive, will face massive challenges adjusting to the EU’s climate goals. The industry employs around 1,171,000 people in the European Union (3,300,000 if the pharmaceutical, plastics and rubber industries are included). 

Decarbonising this sector will require massive reductions. Currently, the chemical industry (including pharma), emits around 135 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. Efficiency gains have mostly been exhausted: greenhouse gas emissions decreased by 57% between 1991 and 2017 while production increased by 84%. The shift to less carbon-intensive energy sources also played a role.

Making the chemical industry ready for a climate neutral 2050 will first and foremost depend on a massive increase in accessible renewable energy sources: electrification of the production processes could then lead to a considerable cut. However, the need to develop new technologies remains. CO2 valorisation (the use of carbon dioxide as source for the production of polymers and chemicals, or for the production of methanol) is just one example. Some companies in the industry have made considerable progress in research, development and innovation of future proof technological solutions.

Luc Triangle: “It is good to see that in the light of these massive challenges, some big industry players pool their resources and share their efforts to develop new technologies. We call on the leadership and management to respect the traditionally good industrial relations in this sector when implementing these technologies and shifting to new production or even business models. Transitions are best shaped in the scope of a strong social dialogue.”

The provisions of the Green deal will go far beyond decarbonisation. 2020 will see a number of other legislative initiatives with a potentially significant impact on parts of the chemical industry, e.g. the Farm to Fork Strategy or the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability. 

Luc Triangle: Lets not forget that the chemical industry provides a lot of solutions that enable a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Just think of essential components for building materials, wind turbine blades, solar panels, electric and high efficiency vehicles. The chemical industry is an essential part of integrated industrial value chains in Europe and must remain so in the future."

For more information or further comment please contact Maike Niggemann.