Expert Statement: Jürgen Vormann, Infraserv
CO2-Neutral Chemical Industry - The Challenge of an Industry Transformation
Germany, as one of the major chemical manufacturing nations, has committed to achieve this goal by 2050. But companies need to translate this industry vision into their specific context.
System changes of the scale of CO2 neutrality for a whole industry sector require a new mindset. Major transformations command long lead times and require consistent and persistent follow-through. It is all but clear whether enough value is created to justify the huge investments and how new value generated is distributed among critical players and investors.
CHEManager asked executives and industry experts to share their opinions on this industry transformation, which is a multi-stakeholder challenge and comprises economical, technical, societal and political aspects. We proposed to discuss the following aspects:
- What is your strategy / timeline to become carbon neutral and what are the key challenges on the path to achieve this goal?
- What political / regulatory measures are needed to encourage companies to invest in carbon neutral technologies?
- What economical / societal benefits do you expect or hope for by decarbonizing your business?
- How do you plan to involve external stakeholders critical for achieving CO2 neutrality?
Jürgen Vormann: The Covid-19 pandemic currently dominates the headlines and has displaced sustainability and climate change from the top of society’s agenda. However, these issues have lost none of their urgency or significance for the chemical and pharmaceutical sector.
It is my hope that the sustainability debate will — for various reasons, and not just in response to the economic fallout from the pandemic — become less one-sided in the future than it was before the pandemic, when climate protection activities were demanded at times without considering how they would affect Germany’s competitiveness.
We need pragmatic sustainability policies in Germany and Europe — policies that target ambitious but achievable goals and acknowledge the realities of global competition instead of focusing on the crowd-pleasing appeal of a “green new deal”. That will only happen if we have a critical, constructive and solution-driven debate, not a dogmatic and occasionally one-dimensional vision of sustainability that is geared toward the political mainstream. Sustainability policies that ignore socio-economic facts and allow value generation to be offshored outside Europe quickly lose their claim to being sustainable. Indeed, they run the risk of creating more numerous and serious problems than they purport to solve.
The chemical and pharmaceutical industry has always driven the kind of innovation that is so essential to developing new energy, healthcare, transportation and environmental technologies. It has thus done much to help achieve climate targets, make Germany a socio-economically sustainable place to do business and provide environmentally relevant technologies for tomorrow’s challenges. It is thus in all our interest to do everything we can to give the chemical and pharmaceutical sector a future in Germany and Europe.