The European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic), Brussels, has called for urgent efforts between the industry and the European Union (E.U.) to develop a chemical industry transition pathway (TP). The organization believes this is critical to sustain the massive investments necessary for achieving the objectives of the E.U. Green Deal, part of which calls for no net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050.
This follows the December publication of the first in a series of reports highlighting the scale of industry investments the Green Deal requires.
The 142-page report, “Economic Analysis of the Impacts of the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability,” uses data from over 100 European chemical companies to assess the impact of the Commission’s Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability (CSS).
It particularly focuses on two upcoming legislative processes — changes to the Classification, Packaging and Labeling Regulation (CLP) and the application of a Generic Risk Approach (GRA).
The study found these two alone could potentially cover 12,000 substances collectively involved in up to 43% of the E.U. chemical industry’s total turnover.
After applying different weighing factors to account for uncertainty about definitions and criteria in the CSS, the report’s authors concluded this figure could fall to 28%.
The chemical companies involved in the study noted about a third of this 28% could be substituted or reformulated if required. However, they cautioned the final figure will largely depend on the details of the adopted regulations, what might be technically and economically feasible, and how customers react to their new raw materials. The most-impacted downstream sectors are expected to be adhesives and sealants, paints, and washing and cleaning products.
In addition, the manufacturers noted that as only two of the measures proposed by the CSS have been assessed so far, the cumulative impact of all other changes proposed by the strategy will be bigger. “The effect that these changes could have on E.U. chemical exports has not been examined, which could add significantly to the overall impact,” they warned.
Martin Brudermueller, Cefic president and CEO of BASF, Ludwigshafen, Germany, stated the intended policy changes coming with CSS will also create a “ripple effect” across many value chains relying on chemicals — even when relaxed criteria are considered.
“The chemical industry has always been driven by innovation, passion for new technologies and entrepreneurial spirit. The results of this study indicate an opportunity for an industry-wide substitution effort to deliver on the goals of the CSS. However…for us to meet the many challenges of the Green Deal, we need a robust chemical industry TP,” he said.
Such a pathway, Brudermueller added, should include timelines to develop substitutes and build on proven and established approaches such as the risk assessments carried out under the E.U.’s REACH regulation. Similarly, incentives will be needed to create markets for these new chemicals, combined with enhanced enforcement of REACH and product safety legislation for imports.
A strong innovation agenda should complement the package to accelerate the development of safe and sustainable-by-design alternatives. Finally, the TP should address the other three transitions the chemical industry must undergo — climate neutrality, digitalization and circularity, he concluded.
Meanwhile, the U.K. chemical industry, still struggling to organize its post-Brexit chemical safety regime, looks to have been granted an extra two years to come up with a new strategy.
A December letter from Environment Secretary George Eustice to trade body the Chemical Industries Association (CIA), London, confirmed the extension.
“Whilst this initial information has already been provided [under REACH transitional arrangements], the government will consult on extending the deadlines for providing the full registration data. Alongside this, the government will engage with industry and other stakeholders to explore whether there are opportunities to reduce the need for industry to replicate existing E.U. REACH data by placing a greater emphasis on understanding how chemicals are used in G.B. [Great Britain],” the lawmaker wrote.
The original plan involved replicating much of the REACH program. However, industry pointed out this would be inordinately expensive; some estimates put the cost as high as £1 billion ($1.3 billion).
The CIA welcomed the extension, which runs to October 2025 and is still subject to consultation. In a statement the organization said, “[It] provides more time to carry out further work on a longer-term solution which can deliver the same, if not better, outcomes in regulating chemicals in the U.K.”