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Chemistry’s contribution

Posted 19/06/2012 by cgodfrey

Twenty years ago, world leaders met in Brazil to discuss the environmental challenges that faced the world. This week they meet again at the so-called Rio+20; the event in Rio de Janeiro that is not to be confused with the current G20 meeting to discuss the world’s on-going economic problems.

The two events do, however, share something in common: not much progress has been made in solving the key problems both environmental and economic that currently face the world. And is it helpful that only 20 countries are considered important enough to actually to discuss these global issues? Perhaps another aspect of these two meetings is that the people that are perhaps most affected, for example, by climate change, deforestation, lack of clean water are also those who are struggling to make a living in the world’s poorest countries, which are not represented.

Certainly, the answers and solutions to these many challenges are not easily determined and there is no intention to even try here.

But chemistry and the chemical industry have repeatedly claimed, as reported in the pages of C&I, they can help to provide those solutions. And yesterday at Rio+20, the UN conference on sustainable development the International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA) ‘showcased the industry’s contributions to sustainable development and the so-called green economy in a panel discussion held in conjunction with the Business Action for Sustainable Development (BASD) Business Day.

Panel member, ICCA president Andrew Liveris, chairman and ceo of Dow Chemical, said: ‘Since the first Earth Summit in 1992, the chemical industry has played an essential and integrated role in delivering solutions that enable inclusive and greener economies. Today, more than 20 years later, our industry is a proactive participant at Rio+20, highlighting innovations, technologies and processes that are applied around the world, every day, delivering on the promise of sustainability and made possible only through the application of chemistry.’

The ICCA panel members will also be highlighting one of the industry’s key priorities: advancing and strengthening its Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM), which the ICCA is promoting as the preferred international forum for making progress towards the 2020 goal of safer chemicals management. The ICCA is also supporting the development of a flexible, customisable roadmap to a green economy that focuses on both resource efficiency and economic growth as a key outcome of Rio+20.

‘Resource efficiency is crucial to enhance sustainable use of scarce resources,’ said Carlos Fadigas, ceo of Brazilian chemical company Braskem and a member of the ICCA panel. ‘We must focus on sustainable consumption as well as sustainable production, with a commitment to producing goods and services efficiently and consuming them differently,’ he noted, adding; ‘in order to achieve that it is crucial each company puts sustainability as a core driver of its business strategy. More and more chemical companies are doing that.’

Fine words and ambitions indeed, but given the discussions by the 20 nations at the other summit, the continuing slowdown in the worldeconomy and the threat posed by the possible collapse of the eurozone are perhaps figuring higher up the list of priorities certainly in the developed world and increasingly in the emerging economies, including Brazil.

The one good thing the chemical industry has discovered is that by being more energy and resource efficient and its pursuit of ‘green chemistry’ there is an economic benefit.  Pursuing improvements in financial terms has also been more successful than any emotional appeals as the last 20 years prove so perhaps these two events need to be brought together.

It would be interesting to hear the UK chancellor’s views on environmental improvements as much as it would to hear the UK minister for the environment talking about economic impacts. We may in fact hear something along those lines as reductions in UK subsidies for wind energy have just been announced – is someone actually listening?

Neil Eisberg - Editor

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  • Anonymous said:
    15/07/2012 07:44

    I thuoght I'd have to read a book for a discovery like this!

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