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The Chemical Industry: Part of the Climate Solution

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Jennifer Scott
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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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About the author

Anne Womack Kolton serves as the Executive Vice President of the American Chemistry Council, leading Communications, Sustainability and Market Outreach for the chemical industry. Anne is responsible for the development and execution of domestic and international strategies to advance industry’s advocacy priorities, sustainability practices, marketplace relationships with manufacturers and retailers, as well as environmental, health, safety and security performance through oversight of Responsible Care®, the industry’s signature EH&S program.

In this capacity, Anne manages marketplace, policymaker, stakeholder, and industry interests to develop collaborative programs to support sustainability progress. Recently, Anne led the development of the first–ever chemical industry sustainability metrics, which measure and report the U.S. chemical industry’s sustainability performance. Through these responsibilities, Anne is helping the chemical industry demonstrate its commitment and contributions to overcoming society’s environmental, social, and economic sustainability challenges now and in the future.

Anne joined ACC in 2010 after serving in two global public affairs consulting firms where she provided strategic communications and government relations counsel to a range of clients, primarily from the energy and financial services sectors. During the administration of President George W. Bush, Anne led communications for the United States Department of Energy, served at the United States Department of the Treasury and Securities and Exchange Commission and as Assistant Press Secretary in the White House Press Office. Anne began her career working in Texas and Presidential politics.

American Chemistry Council

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) represents the leading companies engaged in the business of chemistry. ACC members apply the science of chemistry to make innovative products and services that make people's lives better, healthier and safer. ACC is committed to improved environmental, health and safety performance through Responsible Care®; common sense advocacy designed to address major public policy issues; and health and environmental research and product testing. The business of chemistry is a $486 billion enterprise and a key element of the nation's economy. It is among the largest exporters in the nation, accounting for ten percent of all U.S. goods exports. Chemistry companies are among the largest investors in research and development. Safety and security have always been primary concerns of ACC members, and they have intensified their efforts, working closely with government agencies to improve security and to defend against any threat to the nation’s critical infrastructure.

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