InterviewMore responsibility must be taken on climate change - DSM

04 November 2009 12:30  [Source: ICIS news]

By Andy Brice

LONDON (ICIS news)--Politicians and industry can no longer afford to gamble with climate change and must take more responsibility, Feike Sijbesma, chairman of DSM's managing board, said late on Tuesday.

Speaking at a presentation to journalists ahead of December's UN climate change conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, he said that it was essential not to miss this opportunity to take action over environmental concerns.

“When I meet with government leaders they all say that something has to happen,” said Sijbesma.

“But what’s also changed in the last year is that CEOs are taking much more of a responsibility than ever before. It’s not only the politicians; we have to take responsibility too. If Copenhagen fails then we lose a very important chance.”

Considering the discussions that will be raised at the December 7-18 event, Sijbesma said that aside from advocating a strong authority to regulate the carbon dioxide (CO2) market, it was essential that there should be some kind of incentive mechanism to reduce CO2 emissions.

“My philosophy is why not take a benchmark - a certain product - and look at how it’s produced,” he said. “The moment you are among the 10-15% best producing companies in the world – even where you are emitting CO2 - then you get your rights for free.”

This would give companies an incentive to invest in better technologies. Firms that exceed the benchmark performance would not have to pay for their CO2 emissions under the European carbon emissions trading scheme.

“The world wants that product and even when it results in CO2 you are doing it in the cleanest way that the world can do it,” said Sijbesma.

“If you are among the 85% doing it with higher CO2 emissions then you have to pay for that. A kind of benchmarked system – that is what I think the industry is advocating for.”

In addition to addressing CO2 emissions, he said that it was also important to consider cleaner production processes.

“We are already developing technology in the world that can partly solve that problem,” said Sijbesma. “What should be part of Copenhagen is how we are going to invest money in innovation to develop solutions for these problems.”

Sijbesma said he remained convinced that one of the solutions would be biotechnology – a shift from chemical-based processes to those based on water and using raw materials other than oil.

“At the end of the day, the scenarios are that we have maybe 100 years of oil left,” he said. “The oil price can only go in one direction. My point is that one day it will all be gone, it will get more expensive and thirdly, it is polluting. These are all reasons to find alternatives.”

Sijbesma added that although biotech currently represented only a few percent of the global chemical industry, a study by global consultancy McKinsey & Co two years ago suggested that this could grow to 20% in the next 10-20 years.

In December, the Dutch specialty chemicals company plans to bring a pilot plant onstream in Lestrem, France, that will produce succinic acid. Succinic acid has numerous applications including pharmaceuticals, tyres and paints.

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By: Andy Brice
+44 20 8652 3214



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