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The Chemical Industry: Part of the Climate Solution

This week, Climate Week NYC is hosting a virtual meeting to bring together businesses, government leaders and climate advocates in New York City and more than 20 countries around the world in what is being billed as the biggest climate summit taking place this year.

Climate change is a global challenge that requires long-term commitment and action by every segment of society, and innovations in chemistry are critical to achieving efficient, effective climate change solutions to help enhance sustainability.

In fact, a report just released by the World Economic Forum states that the chemical industry can play an important role in helping provide solutions that meet growing consumer demand for sustainable products and help drive toward a more renewable, circular and resilient future.

As Congress develops strategies to fight climate change, ACC members have adopted a set of Climate Policy Principles outlining our commitment to making sustainable progress toward reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, while minimizing impacts to society. 

At the same time, climate policies must allow for the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturing. Many of the products made by energy-intensive industries such as the chemical industry help society reduce GHG emissions and are essential to achieving climate progress.

Chemistry-based products and technologies support the fight against climate change through a variety of applications that help save energy and reduce GHG emissions, such as renewable energy resources like wind and solar, electric and high-efficiency vehicles and energy-efficient building materials. For example:

  • High-performance building insulation, sealants and wraps help save energy in our homes, offices and factories, which helps lower GHG emissions. In fact, building insulation can save up to 40 times the energy used to create it, and plastic house wrap technology can reduce infiltration of outside air into homes by 10 to 50 percent, helping to drastically reduce the energy required to heat or cool the home.
  • Polymers and composite materials used in glass and carbon-reinforced fiber for wind turbines save 123 units of GHGs for every unit emitted to make them.
  • Chemistry enables compact fluorescent lighting that typically uses 70 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs and saves 20 units of GHGs for every unit used to make it. Expanded use of LED lighting could cut global energy demand by 30 percent.
  • In automotive design, plastics have contributed to a multitude of innovations in safety, performance and fuel efficiency. Today’s plastics make up 50 percent of the volume of new cars, but only 10 percent of the weight, helping to make cars lighter, more fuel-efficient and resulting in fewer CO2 emissions.

In addition, the chemistry industry is continually looking for ways to reduce emissions in our own processes while providing solutions that help society reduce GHGs, and tracking our progress. ACC’s Sustainability Principles include a commitment to achieving measurable reductions in GHG emissions in the manufacture and distribution of our products. Through Responsible Care®, ACC members measure and report their GHG intensity and most recently reported a 20 percent reduction in GHG intensity from 2018 to 2019.

A combination of technology, market-based and policy solutions will be needed to reduce GHG emissions and achieve climate goals, such as those of the Paris Agreement. The chemical industry is committed to leveraging its resources, technologies and innovations to continue to drive progress toward a better future for us all.

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