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The EU Chemicals Industry: a key sector for a sustainable Europe

The EU chemical industry’s ambition is to lead the transition for our industry globally by offering sustainable European solutions to global challenges, such as climate change, energy security and responsible use of natural resources.

Through innovative products and break- through technologies, the chemical industry is contributing in the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals’ Agenda, the Paris Agreement on climate change and major EU policy objectives such as the Circular Economy and Clean Energy Package.

As one of the largest and most diversified industries in the world, we supply virtually all sectors of the economy.

Our unique position makes us a key player in helping other sectors become more energy and resource-efficient.

According to our estimates, the next 10 years will be crucial for scaling up cost effective low-carbon and circular economy technologies. This is why it is crucial to define properly which economic activities can be considered environmentally sustainable and this debate will have a considerable impact on investments into low-carbon and circular economy technologies.

To define an activity as environmentally sustainable it is important to know how industrial value chains work.

Having this understanding will help ensure that the production of the building blocks of environmentally beneficial products and activities also fall under “sustainable investments”.

The chemical supply chain is a perfect example to illustrate this idea. Chemical substances are used in a wide range of low-carbon solutions and technologies. Take, for example, insulations panels and coatings which reduce energy consumption in buildings. Innovative composite materials which make cars and planes lighter and more fuel efficient. Electric batteries which extends the range of an electric vehicle without needing to recharge.

Chemicals are also essential for the EU’s circular economy.

We have already developed processes that can convert various types of waste into fuel or new chemicals. Some chemical companies also found a way to capture CO2 to use it as feedstock for their production processes. This is just a small sample of the technologies that we are working on and we continue our quest for more sustainable solutions through our ambitious research and development programmes.

The contribution of the chemical industry has also been recognized by the recent Technical Expert Group on Taxonomy report, where four segments (inorganic, organic, fertilizer-nitrogen compounds, plastics) have been listed among the 67 activities that can make a substantial contribution to climate change mitigation.

In addition to environmental considerations, we believe that it is equally important to consider social and economic aspects of any activity in the context of the Taxonomy Proposal. This includes adequate and safe working conditions, decent wages, fair and long-term job contracts, cooperation with trade unions, life-long learning, new jobs creation and investments in research and innovation.

Finally, it is important to recognize the sustainable transition is a dynamic journey, and as such, will develop over time. In this regard, Cefic suggests introducing additional, more gradual, thresholds and metrics that can accommodate such a transition to ensure all viable technologies and innovations with the sustainability potential are being considered and included in the Taxonomy.