A study released this week finds that the global chemical industry has the possibility to make an important contribution to a low carbon future. It demonstrates how solutions from the chemical sector could enable significant emission reductions and support the UNFCCC Paris Agreement for restricting global warming to “well below 2 degrees Celsius” by the end of the century.

Undertaken earlier this year by energy and climate experts Ecofys, a Navigant company, the study calculates avoided emissions across four key chemical industry value chains: buildings, transport, renewable power and food packaging. The findings show the chemical industry can deliver significant potential savings across all four value chains.

The study takes a stock-based approach and calculates two distinct approaches: The first approach estimates annual emission reductions if the solutions were used to their full potential right now and calculates that chemical industry contributions could reduce emissions by over 9 GtCO2 e each year – a reduction greater than the total annual emissions of the US. The second approach estimates the reductions enabled by the solutions in 2030 in a 2 degrees Celsius mitigation scenario as compared to a reference scenario and finds that solutions provided by the chemical industry could reduce emissions by 2.5 GtCO2 e per year – equivalent to total emissions from France, Germany, Italy and the UK combined.

“The chemical industry plays an essential role in enabling other industries to enhance their energy efficiency and reduce GHG emissions,” said Marco Mensink, secretary general of International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA). “It has the potential to further develop its role in the energy transition beyond 2030. Therefore we need a policy environment that recognises that the future is cross-sectoral and enables the chemical industry to accelerate its contribution to avoided emissions across many other value chains.”

Renewable energy would make the largest contribution to emission avoidance with chemical industry solutions providing key materials for wind and solar power. In transport, the contribution of special chemicals to rolling resistance and fuel efficiency in tires presents a significant opportunity. In buildings chemically based products such as insulation, piping, air barriers and sealing materials have a significant role to play in achieving substantial reductions in energy use and associated GHG emissions by improving the energy performance of new and existing buildings..