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Climate Change

Decarbonization is industry opportunity, report says

by Michael McCoy
September 25, 2022 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 100, Issue 34


Unless the chemical industry ends its dependence on fossil fuels and becomes more circular, it could lose its social license to operate, warns a new report from Systemiq, a systems change company, and the Center for Global Commons at the University of Tokyo. But a successful reinvention could help the industry double in size and create 29 million new jobs, says the report, which was funded by Mitsubishi Chemical. The report says reusing and recycling chemicals could reduce demand for them by up to 31% by 2050. But to reach net-zero carbon emissions by then, the industry will also need to move away from fossil raw materials and adopt technologies like carbon capture and storage. The report sees green ammonia, used as a fuel, and green methanol, used as a raw material for plastics, as keys to the industry’s reinvention. In a best-case scenario, the industry could become carbon negative by the early 2040s by using carbon dioxide and biomass to make methanol and by storing residual carbon underground. But the transformation will come with a big price tag. The report says retrofitting legacy production and building new green chemical plants will cost over $3 trillion.


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