INSIGHT: ICCA breaks new ground in carbon dialogue

08 July 2009 17:30  [Source: ICIS news]

By Nigel Davis

LONDON (ICIS news)--The chemical industry wants to get the message across that its products, certainly if used in the right way, can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

It is also deeply worried about ‘carbon leakage’, or the migration of industrial production to countries with less stringent carbon abatement policies.

Its just released greenhouse gas emissions study is first and foremost a policy tool that will be used to try to achieve the first and prevent the latter.

The study is designed to persuade legislators to look more kindly or, rather, more carefully on a sector that provides so much of the stuff that makes modern life possible.

A great deal of that stuff, applied correctly, can greatly help improve carbon abatement.

The International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA) has commissioned a study on which a great deal more work can be based.

The report breaks new ground in that it helps quantify emissions and the potential for reduction on the basis of full life-cycle analyses.

It builds on BASF’s ‘Factor 3’ analysis which suggested that for every one tonne of carbon dioxide emitted by BASF production activities, its products helped save the emission of three tonnes of carbon dioxide.

The industry expects a great deal from this kind of work.

The study should “significantly improve the acceptance of the chemical industry”, BASF executive board member Hans-Ulrich Engel said at the European launch.

The reaction from the European Commission and the International Energy Agency, he said, has been “very positive”.

The report is a tool anchored in McKinsey & Co methodology and the consultancy firm’s analysis of greenhouse gas emissions and the potential for emissions reduction. It is a first for any sector.

The chemical industry didn’t know what answers life-cycle analyses of 100 products would show. The data provide the basis for discussion within the industry and dialogue with key stakeholders.

Those stakeholders include legislators and anyone minded to insulate their home or purchase a new vehicle.

Importantly, the report identifies some ‘low-hanging fruit’. Better-insulated homes worldwide would save a lot of energy as would more fuel-efficient cars. Both trends could be amplified through better regulation.

The report is being promoted by the ICCA, an organisation that represents the major chemicals trade associations in Europe, North America and Japan. But there is an understanding that a much wider discussion has to take place to include producers in the developing world, particularly in Asia.

New and better abatement technology will be needed worldwide for existing and emerging chemicals production technologies.

The industry has a problem in that politicians and the public do not necessarily understand what it does or how its products are used.

It is a big energy consumer and a big emitter, although those emissions have been cut significantly in recent years.

Enabling further positive change is essential if greenhouse gas emission targets are to be met. Positive change also requires the adoption of policies that help direct technologies towards more effective carbon abatement.

That requires greater understanding of what the industry does and how its products might be better used to help curb the production of carbon dioxide at every level.

To discuss issues facing the chemical industry go to ICIS connect

By: Nigel Davis
+44 20 8652 3214

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