Executive Perspective: ACC's VP of Sustainability and Responsible Care says chemical industry is crucial in providing solutions to help reduce GHG emissions, promote clean energy transition; carbon capture and utilization is poised to capture investments

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June 13, 2023 (press release) –

Late last month I attended The Economist 3rd Annual Sustainability Week US summit in Washington, D.C., where leaders from business, the finance sector, government, NGOs and academia gathered to focus on a key question – what is needed to help businesses become more sustainable, faster, while also generating business value and meeting customer needs.

At The Economist Summit, I had the opportunity to speak on a panel, “The Power of Public-Private Partnerships in Decarbonizing Hard-to-Abate Sectors.” And a few weeks earlier, on May 11 at the 12th Annual Climate Leadership Conference, I participated on a panel titled “Pathways to Net Zero for Hard-to-Abate Sectors.” As you can see, the panels at these two different conferences struck similar themes – key being that the chemical industry is seen as a sector that faces challenges in decarbonizing and reducing our greenhouse gas emissions.

We recognize that due to our industry’s size, scale and energy intensity, reducing our emissions is a challenge. The chemical manufacturing industry is under increasing pressure to reduce our emissions.

And such pressure, in addition to the demand for the products of chemistry, will continue to grow, as we work as a society to advance sustainable solutions. The fact is, chemistry is a crucial element in the clean energy transition and in enabling a lower emissions future. The chemical industry provides solutions that can help reduce GHG emissions, both at our facilities and among our value chain stakeholders and across the broader economy.

Reducing our own emissions

The chemical manufacturing industry has been taking steps to reduce emissions in our operations and investing in technologies to enable continued, accelerated emissions reductions. In fact, a recent article in The Economist asks, “Can carbon removal become a trillion-dollar business?” and provides as examples emissions reduction efforts being undertaken by ACC member companies including ExxonMobil and Occidental Chemical Corp., which are making significant financial investments in technologies like direct air capture and carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS). 

These technologies are big business; CCUS alone may attract $150 billion in investments globally this decade, according to a consultancy cited in The Economist article. But we need incentives and commitments, both from industry, policymakers, regulators, the value chain and investors, to realize the potential of lower emissions technologies.

Promising developments

Looking forward, there are promising developments. Policies and market-based incentives provided through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Actcan create new opportunities and emissions reduction pathways across the chemical value chain. The recent debt ceiling agreement also includes important provisions to advance permitting reform. Timely and efficient review of energy infrastructure projects is imperative to help our nation develop a reliable and resilient energy delivery system, secure supply chains, diverse energy sources and technologies, and a competitive and innovative U.S. manufacturing sector.  

Additionally, collaboration and partnerships among government, supply chain and people in the communities where we operate are vital to accelerating development of sustainable solutions and reducing emissions. For example, ACC is pleased to be collaborating with the Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) as the laboratory works to innovate new technologies around clean hydrogen and utilization pathways.

One of the top questions asked at the top of The Economist Summit was, does the arc of history bend toward sustainability? I say, the answer is yes, and the chemical industry is taking action to innovate the products and technologies that can turn the curve toward that direction.

About the Author
Mitchell Toomey

As Vice President of Sustainability and Responsible Care®, Mitch Toomey is responsible for leading the strategic implementation of ACC’s world-class EHS&S performance initiative and executing the industry’s commitment to sustainability – through innovation, collaboration, and technologies that enhance the safety and environmental impacts of ACC member products and operations.

American Chemistry Council

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) represents the leading companies engaged in the multibillion-dollar business of chemistry. ACC members apply the science of chemistry to make innovative products, technologies and services that make people's lives better, healthier and safer. ACC is committed to improved environmental, health, safety and security performance through Responsible Care®; common sense advocacy addressing major public policy issues; and health and environmental research and product testing. ACC members and chemistry companies are among the largest investors in research and development, and are advancing products, processes and technologies to address climate change, enhance air and water quality, and progress toward a more sustainable, circular economy.


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