The global chemical industry is working to create the products that help make sustainability possible while improving the energy efficiency of our operations and reducing emissions.
Chemistry and the Global Climate Agreement
At the 2015 Conference of the Parties (COP-21) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), world leaders agreed to a global action plan known as the Paris Agreement. The Agreement is designed to curb greenhouse gas emissions and mobilize global political will to address the climate change challenge. Successful implementation of the Paris Agreement hinges in large part on contributions from the private sector. For global chemical manufacturers, that means continuing to do what we do best: innovate. Innovation requires a consistent, supportive policy and regulatory environment to reach its full potential and to allow industry to develop and implement solutions to address global sustainability challenges.
OUR CONTRIBUTIONS TO SUSTAINABILITY
Chemistry forms the backbone of energy efficient products and technologies that help enable a more sustainable future. While greenhouse gas is emitted during the manufacture of chemical products, the use of the products downstream and in other sectors can help save more energy and emissions than are required to produce them. To this end, ICCA has developed multiple energy technology roadmaps, life cycle assessment tools and case studies to help businesses up and down the value chain realize new gains in energy efficiency while also reducing the environmental footprint of their operations.
Chemical products enable new energy efficient technologies and materials needed for sustainable construction and urban mobility, including new insulation, adhesives, sealants and lightweight materials used by both the construction and transport sectors. Most technologies depend on innovations in chemistry to become more efficient, affordable and scalable. Chemistry also helps revolutionize energy storage with advanced battery technology. An ICCA study carried out on a worldwide scale estimates, based on a realistic scenario, that by 2030, for 6 areas where chemicals play a key role, an overall potential to avoid 2.5 Gigatons of CO2 emissions every year can be foreseen.
See Key findings from a technical report by Ecofys
Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a tool that chemical manufacturers use to systematically evaluate the environmental impacts of products over their entire life cycle. ICCA’s Avoided Emissions Guidelines demonstrate how companies can employ LCA to quantify the emissions savings enabled by chemicals, taking all steps into account, from production, through use, to safe disposal. Seventeen case studies illustrate how companies have used the guidelines to quantify emissions savings enabled by their products across the value chain.
Innovations That ENABLE SUSTAINABILITY
A sustainable, green economy demands a new energy future, driven by the development of new products that can help maximize the world’s diverse, but limited, energy resources.
A Net Gain in Emissions Savings
According to a groundbreaking 2009 study by McKinsey & Company, Innovations for Greenhouse Gas Reductions, a world without chemistry would be a world with significantly higher – up to 11 percent higher – GHG emissions.
That’s because, for every one unit of CO2 emitted in the manufacturing of the products of chemistry, two units of CO2 are saved through the energy savings enabled by those products. By 2030, the GHG savings-to-emissions ratio could increase from 2:1 to 4:1.
Below is a list of some popular energy-saving products and technologies which chemistry helps make possible.
The use of advanced insulation foams in buildings saves 2.4 billion tons of greenhouse gases per year. Efficient insulation can also reduce energy costs by as much as 60 percent. PVC water pipes can help reduce the amount of energy consumed in pumping water by as much as 200 percent.
Modern, compact fluorescent light bulbs offer more effective lighting and have a longer life than incandescent bulbs. They use 70 percent less energy than conventional light bulbs and save 700 million tons of GHG emissions annually.
The use of more efficient automotive technology like lightweight plastic parts, tires that create less emissions and gasoline and diesel additives that reduce fuel consumption helps save 230 million tons of GHG emissions.
The chemistry of detergent enzymes, one of the largest and most successful applications of modern industrial biotechnology, has reduced the amount of electricity needed to do a load of laundry by 30 percent while at the same time reducing water consumption.
Beyond Innovation, Our Actions Contribute to Sustainability
The global chemical industry is best recognized for creating the products that help others improve sustainability. For decades, however, we’ve also been hard at work improving energy efficiency and reducing GHG emissions at our own operations – even as production has increased.
The European chemicals sector emitted 49% less CO2 equivalent in 2009 compared to 1990, even as production increased 60% over the same time
The Japanese chemicals industry reduced absolute GHG emissions by 17% between 1990 and 2007 while improving energy efficiency by 16%
The U.S. chemicals sector reduced absolute GHG emissions by 16% between 1990 and 2008 while improving energy efficiency 53% since 1974
Roadmaps To A CLEANER, MORE EFFICIENT WORLD
ICCA’s technology roadmaps outline how governments and industry can work together to accelerate the implementation of chemical products and innovations to improve sustainability around the globe.
Of all the energy that is used around the world, nearly one-third is consumed by the buildings sector. ICCA’s Building Technology Roadmap explores the potential energy and GHG savings from five chemically-derived building technologies: insulation, pipe and pipe insulation, air sealing, reflective roof coatings and pigments, and windows. According to our technology roadmap, combining ambitious building efficiency improvements with lower-carbon fuels could lead to a 41 percent reduction in energy use and a 70 percent reduction in GHG emissions by 2050.
ICCA’s Energy and GHG Reductions in the Chemical Industry via Catalytic Processes is a technology roadmap that explores how the chemical industry can harness catalysis and other related technologies to boost energy efficiency in production processes. By increasing the rate of a chemical reaction, catalysts can effectively improve the energy efficiency of the reaction. The technology roadmap describes a combination of several pathways that could help cut energy use by 13 exajoules by 2050 and curb greenhouse gas (GHG) emission rates 1 gigatonne of CO2 equivalent.
Tools ForTRACING OUR IMPACT, START TO FINISH
Chemical manufacturers use life cycle assessment tools to systematically evaluate the environmental, social and economic impacts of our products over the course of their entire life cycle.
The Value of the Life Cycle Assessment
Conducting a life cycle assessment (LCA) means accounting for all the environmental impacts of a product over its entire life cycle.
ICCA members employ LCA to evaluate these impacts throughout a product’s entire lifespan, from raw material extraction through materials processing, manufacturing, distribution, use, repair and maintenance, and eventual disposal or recycling.
We’ve found that, over the course of their lifespan, many chemical industry products enable the prevention of significant GHG emissions when compared to non-chemical solutions. For that reason, LCA is critical to assessing – and ultimately improving – the sustainability of value chains.
Helping Others Become Champions Of Life Cycle Assessment
ICCA has developed a set of guidelines that employ life cycle assessment to help companies and their value chain customers achieve a better understanding of the avoided greenhouse gas emissions of their products.
Addressing the Avoided Emissions Challenge
ICCA’s Avoided Emissions Guidelines are designed to help make the process of conducting and communicating life cycle assessments more consistent.
The guidelines enable companies to compare greenhouse gas emissions along the life cycle of two solutions of equal benefit to users.
With a more accurate picture of a product’s environmental performance, businesses along the value chain can be more confident in the sustainability of the solution they put on the market.
Avoided Emissions Case Studies
ICCA’s avoided emissions case studies demonstrate the use of the Avoided Emissions Guidelines. ICCA has assembled 17 robust examples quantifying how, and how much solutions enabled by chemical products can contribute to greenhouse gas savings. The case studies were offered by ten companies and two associations. They exemplify the application of the ICCA & WBCSD Chemical Sector guidelines.
Each case study illustrates the importance of using a consistent, harmonized and methodical approach when calculating avoided emissions. The case studies also highlight the chemical industry’s commitment to enhancing transparency and improving the sustainability of chemical products.
Achieving ambitious sustainability goals requires that industry, governments, academia and others work together. Our partners in sustainability have played a key role in helping industry improve the way we assess our environmental performance, and they have helped us better identify and communicate the vast potential chemical products hold in helping countries meet and exceed their sustainability objectives.
ICCA and WBCSD
The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) is a CEO-led organization of forward-thinking companies that helps drive debate and policy change in favor of sustainable development solutions.
ICCA and the WBCSD first joined forces in 2012 on a chemical sector sustainability project called Reaching Full Potential. The aim of the project was “to help the chemical sector harmonize approaches to sustainability measurement and define collaborative value chain solutions in order to scale-up sustainable business solutions across the sector’s value chains.”
Together we developed practical guidelines to improve consistency in the assessment and reporting of avoided emissions. WBCSD drew upon existing life cycle assessment studies, company presentations, and expertise from participating chemical companies. Our work culminated in the ICCA and WBCSD’s Avoided Emissions Guidelines, released in 2013, and reviewed in 2017.
ICCA and IEA
The International Energy Agency (IEA) is an international energy forum comprising 29 industrialized countries under the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation (OECD). IEA’s overarching goal is to ensure reliable, affordable and clean energy for its member countries and beyond.
ICCA teamed up with IEA to develop our 2013 technology roadmap, Energy and GHG Reductions in the Chemical Industry via Catalytic Processes. Around 90 percent of chemical manufacturing processes use catalysis, and ICCA’s partnership with IEA helped us further explore how the chemical industry can use catalysts and other related technology to boost energy efficiency and reduce GHG emissions in manufacturing processes.
We also joined IEA for a Global Industry Experts Dialogue Workshop at their Paris headquarters in 2014. There, we helped to explore the role of catalysis and other game-changing innovations can play in meeting climate targets of the Energy Technology Perspectives 2015 project.