Cefic welcomes new enforcement and innovation proposals in new Chemical Strategy for Sustainability but warns ‘missed opportunity’ and uncoordinated approach risk undermining EU ‘Green Deal’ and climate goals

Cefic welcomes new enforcement and innovation proposals in new Chemical Strategy for Sustainability but warns ‘missed opportunity’ and uncoordinated approach risk undermining EU ‘Green Deal’ and  climate goals

Brussels, 14th of October 2020 – Commenting on the publication of the EU’s new Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability, Cefic Director General Marco Mensink, today said:

“Cefic welcomes the new compliance, enforcement and innovation proposals in this new Chemical Strategy for Sustainability, which we have been calling for as being much-needed in Europe. The strategy has become more balanced. However overall this has become a missed opportunity for a strategy to accelerate how Europe’s fourth largest industry can deliver on the Green Deal, as a growth strategy, while reinforcing EU global leadership on chemical regulations. “

“What we have today reads more like a long list of regulatory measures lacking sufficient clarity on how they will be joined up, how they relate to real-world geopolitical context like Brexit or how they will all add up to achieve the Green Deal objectives. This is especially concerning at a time when the rest of the world has not yet followed REACH and is unlikely to. With most manufactured goods relying on chemicals, Europe’s chemical industry is at the heart of almost all value chains and Green Deal solutions, from solar panels to batteries, wind turbines and hydrogen to building insulation, EU-made pharmaceuticals and more powerful electronics, to name just a few. “

Greater policy coherence needed to protect Green Deal investments and ‘EU homegrown solutions’

“This uncoordinated policy risks undermining the role the EU’s homegrown industry can play, in favour of simply outsourcing the Green Deal technology solutions to other parts of the world. From this point onwards, it is crucial that a much more coordinated approach is taken to how the impacts of this strategy are assessed, how the various measures come together towards a shared objective and how this strategy should be implemented.”

“Cefic came out early in support of the European Green Deal and Europe’s ambition to become climate neutral by 2050 and therefore it is a shame this strategy does not speak more clearly to those goals. The Green Deal and the new Chemicals Strategy acknowledge the ‘indispensable’ role of Europe’s chemical industry yet this strategy lacks the ambition to really drive unprecedented scales of investments in the kinds of innovation and sustainable chemistry that are vital to achieving a climate neutral, circular, digital, safer and cleaner Europe.”

“Sustainable by Design” not hazardous by default

“There are some vitally important elements in the strategy which Cefic had asked for, such as the new Sustainable-by-Design concept and signals of more policy yet to come on enforcing compliance with European regulations by imports. However, a real chemical sector strategy for the Green Deal should strike a better balance between simply banning chemicals based on their hazardous properties and enabling the technology solutions that will make the Green Deal reality.”

Preserve EU international leadership within the new geopolitical context including Brexit

“It is encouraging to see the EU Commission will step up its international leadership on chemical regulations but this must also be done in coherence with trade, Single Market and innovation policies. Take Brexit for example as it is unlikely the UK will want to follow an upgraded REACH and meanwhile there is a very real threat of regulatory divergence overall weakening environmental and public health regulations across our European continent.”

“Cefic of course supports the public health and environmental goals of the strategy, to ensure protections for citizens, for workers and for vulnerable groups. The only disagreements we would have are about the details of how to get there. This is why we will continue to push against a full re-opening of REACH because we agree with the Commission it is the most comprehensive and protective regulatory framework for chemicals anywhere in the world and furthermore we believe it should be supported not placed at risk of being undermined. We are encouraged by the assurances recently given by EU Commissioners and this new strategy that there will only be a very targeted revision of the current regulations. It is crucial that detailed and rigorous impact assessments are undertaken on the proposals in this strategy and on its overall contributions to the Green Deal.”

What more is still needed

“Looking forwards, what Europe still needs is a Green Deal ‘game plan’ for its chemical industry, from large companies to SMEs and all its downstream customers, which can deliver the investments needed at scale to meet the chemical strategy goals and at the same time invest in things like electric crackers, hydrogen, chemical recycling, Carbon Capture Storage and Utilisation. This is why we are calling for a sectoral Green Deal for chemicals to help fulfil the enabling role of Europe’s chemical industry. Companies need the right policy signals and signposts to invest at unprecedented new scale in Europe, and above all industry needs regulatory predictability. We are encouraged to see a proposal in the strategy for further industry and stakeholder dialogue and Cefic stands ready to participate fully to help make the Green Deal a reality. Such dialogue is deeply needed to strike the right balance”.