CO2 can be a valuable raw material, not just a climate killer. Here’s how

The world is off track on climate action, with global warming heading towards 3°C this century, according to the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Artiklen er fra World Economics Forum www.weforum.org


What if we did something with carbon emissions, instead of continuing to try and contain them on a massive scale?  Image: REUTERS/David Gray

We used to think that if we could keep warming below 2°C, then the changes we would experience would somehow be manageable. But the IPCC’s report states that even going past 1.5°C is gambling with the planet’s liveability.

While the negotiators at the 24th UN Climate Conference in December 2018 secured agreement on a range of measures that will make the Paris Agreement operational in 2020, now is high time to plan action – in cities, rural areas, energy systems, construction, transport and industry.

Action is expected from the sector that I represent – the chemical industry. It produces many useful products that we can hardly do without, from medications, adhesives and cleaning products to high-quality engineering plastics. However, producing these materials consumes a great deal of energy and natural resources, and releases a significant amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere.

Thanks to modern processes and constant efforts, a lot less is released than previously. However, in Europe alone, industrial processes are the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Still, the chemical industry is a key enabler for a more sustainable future, and part of the solution.

One example of thinking differently is CO2. What if we did something with it, instead of continuing to try and contain it on a massive scale? One promising pathway is using this climate destroyer as a useful raw material, to provide the valuable carbon that the chemical industry so heavily relies on. In doing so, we would need fewer raw materials from fossil sources such as petroleum.

There is a growing movement utilizing non-fossil resources, such as carbon dioxide and plants. This constitutes an important facet of the circular economy, which is still in its infancy. But moving in a circle doesn’t just mean recycling; rather, the entire cycle must be considered.