Access to sustainable carbon will be a major enabler for the transformation of the chemical sector

sustainable carbon

When looking at pathways towards climate-neutrality and circularity, the chemical sector has its own specificity: carbon is and will remain at the very heart of many of our processes. It is an essential element of many chemicals, like it is for most products society is using. A European Sustainable Carbon Policy Package for the chemical industry, as proposed today by the Czech, Dutch, French, and Irish Governments, would therefore be an important step towards efficient carbon management in the chemical sector. Presented during the World Circular Economy Forum 2024 (WCEF2024), the joint statement calls for an overarching European policy framework that stimulates the production and use of sustainable carbon feedstocks.

During a panel discussion, Marco Mensink, Cefic Director General, together with Katja Wodjereck, Neste Executive Vice President – Renewable Products, shared the chemical industry’s support for Europe to encourage the uptake of sustainable carbon sources.

“The industry looks at this initiative with great interest. A key element will be to reward the use of sustainable carbon in the production of chemical products”

said Marco Mensink.

The Minister for the Environment , Vivianne Heijnen, emphasised the role of the chemical industry as a key contributor to a circular economy, and a supplier of components for essential products, while stressing the importance of the package. She noted that degradation of chemical value chains in Europe could have ripple effects across the economy.

The statement was handed over to Wopke Hoekstra, EU Commissioner for Climate Action. To him, this initiative is important for several reasons: the urgency of fighting against climate change, its role in aligning climate policy with the competitiveness agenda and the just transition, and its origins in civil society, ahead of the next Commission’s agenda.

Ensuring carbon availability, market creation, a consistent EU policy framework and a review of state aid frameworks

The joint statement calls for a comprehensive European policy framework to transition from fossil to sustainable carbon feedstocks, including a sustainable carbon availability strategy. This, according to the statement, is crucial for maintaining the long-term competitiveness of the European chemical industry in a climate-neutral and circular economy, spanning from upstream commodities to end-user products.

Key proposals in the statement include market creation for chemicals made from sustainable carbon sources, a review of state aid frameworks for funding projects concerning sustainable carbon. It advocates for a sustainable carbon availability strategy and calls to limit the regulatory load for the industry by creating policy consistency and coherency with climate and product policies.

Driving the transition

To Cefic, a European Sustainable Carbon Policy Package for the chemical industry should be enshrined within the Transition Pathway for the Chemical Industry and a wider European Industrial Deal aligned with the European Green Deal. Enhancing the EU’s raw materials security, expanding waste management infrastructure, and incentivising private investments with financial benefits for sustainable products are essential.

A balanced use of biomass, a supportive policy framework for chemical recycling, and integrating the waste sector into the EU ETS (European Union Emission Trading Scheme) will further enable a sustainable transition. Additionally, creating a harmonised EU market for waste will optimise recycling capabilities, reducing environmental impact.

“A supporting framework will have to ensure that there is a demand for products made out of sustainable carbon, creating the premium that will drive investments in the sector”, added Mensink

Background initiative

In 2023, the Dutch government launched an initiative to encourage the uptake of sustainable carbon with the publication of a government letter on “The Importance of Sustainable Carbon”, followed by several rounds of public consultations in which Cefic was involved.

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