The EU Green Deal claims that it is a “new growth strategy that aims to transform the EU into a fair and prosperous society, with a modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy where there are no net emissions of greenhouse gases in 2050 and where economic growth is decoupled from resource use.”
Jacques Ragot is Vice-President for Global Governmental Affairs of Covestro.
The European chemical industry is ready to lead the transition by offering solutions to global challenges. Yet we will face controversial discussions on how the chemical industry could be transformed and serve our societies best, whilst economically thriving and successfully competing on global markets.
Since chemicals are widely considered as indispensable, essential, critical or crucial because they supply multiple key strategic value chains in and beyond Europe, the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability can only be one of the pillars for a modern chemicals sector. The CSS should therefore be put in broader context to consider sectoral partnerships, incentives, innovation funding and digital technologies to boost innovation towards safe and sustainable products needed for climate neutrality and to support the Circular Economy.
- For example: Chemicals are key components of materials used in wind turbines, solar panels, electric batteries and building insulation in addition to playing a vital role in everyday needs of society, from medicines to clothes. Chemicals therefore contribute to all of the strategic EU value chains and play an important role in enabling the achievement of the Green Deal, the Industrial Strategy and the proposed Economic Recovery Plan.
- Furthermore, the COVID19 pandemic has also shown the key role our industry plays in producing essential supplies during this unprecedented public health crisis. In addition, the pandemic has demonstrated how crucial diversified value chains are to allow for speedy and flexible adaptation when trading partners or single companies are hit by a sudden crisis. A strong EU chemical industry will ensure the EU’s resilience to future crises/shocks that cannot be predicted today.
The new Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability (CSS) should be one central pillar of this Sectoral Green Deal for Chemicals.
First, the strategy should consolidate and promote a solid foundation already built via better implementation and enforcement. We are highly committed to implement REACH, which is central in demonstrating the safety of many existing chemicals. REACH is the basis to achieve the CSS objectives. The priority of the future CSS should be to work on the improvements identified in recent reviews and fitness checks and increase regulatory predictability: Streamline to achieve consistency and avoid duplication between regulations, step up enforcement, ensure enforceability of regulatory measures and solve implementation issues, improve registration dossiers where needed, clarify some of the most complex data requirements towards minimising animal testing, and make more use of digitalised communication of safe use conditions for hazardous substances/mixtures, as well as enhance the Risk Management Options Analysis tool.
Second, for the EU to be a front-runner with the Green Deal, and for its industry to be competitive, the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability should enable the development of sustainable and globally competitive solutions. Beyond safety which is a ‘must-have’ starting point, sustainability considerations should reflect the contribution of chemicals to society as a whole, including economic and social conditions, as well as societal needs (e.g. food, energy and public health security). We support the call for safe and sustainable chemicals. Thereby we aim to deliver more strongly on safe and sustainable-by-design. Substitution of hazardous chemicals should be based on clear understandings of hazard and risks across the life-cycle, considering functionality, different sustainability impacts and contributions and various value chain drivers. It goes without saying that hazardous substances have to be safely used through their life-cycle, without adverse health and environmental effects.
A Sectoral Green Deal for Chemicals will enable the European chemical industry to contribute to achieving the objectives of the Green Deal in the face of increasing global competition and to remain resilient, innovative, prosperous and strong.
The Sectoral Green Deal must provide a framework to enable controversial, open and transparent discussions which allows for informed political and societal choices unfolding the innovative potential of the sector and safeguarding its global frontrunner’s role.