More than 100 US environmental and health groups are calling for the chemical industry to curb its greenhouse gas emissions and sharply decrease reliance on oil and natural gas as raw materials.
“We can’t solve the climate crisis without significantly reducing and replacing fossil fuels throughout the chemical industry,” Darya Minovi, a policy analyst at the Center for Progressive Reform, says in a statement. Minovi authored a report finding the chemical industry is the largest consumer of fossil fuels for energy and chemical feedstocks among all sectors.
Based on Minovi’s analysis and a report on environmental justice, the advocacy groups released a statement calling for the transformation of chemical manufacturing. It is called the 2021 Louisville Charter for Safer Chemicals, named for the city in Kentucky that is home to 11 industrial facilities that historically released more than 1 million kg of toxic air pollution per year.
“The chemical industry alone is set to be the single largest driver of global oil consumption by 2030,” the charter says. “There needs to be a transformational and innovative initiative to significantly reduce and replace the use of fossil fuels in every part of the chemical production industry and the reduction and replacement of chemicals like fluorinated gases that are dangerous GHGs [greenhouse gases].”
Government and market priorities need to shift to achieve this goal, the declaration says. “It will require action to phase out fossil fuel dependence, the most dangerous feedstocks, and hazardous chemicals; to innovate safer alternatives; and to protect high-risk and highly exposed communities,” the charter says.
It also seeks the phaseout, ban, and recovery of chemicals that are persistent, bioaccumulative, or highly mobile in the environment; contribute to climate change; or pose immediate safety threats because they are flammable or potentially explosive. Communities or workers harmed by exposure to pollutants from chemical plants or to so-called legacy chemicals that are no longer made but remain in the environment “must be fully restored” from that harm, the charter says.
The goal is to build an equitable and health-based sustainable economy, it adds.
“The chemical industry has used its political and economic power to sacrifice the health and well-being of fenceline communities and their own employees in the name of profit for far too long,” Michele Roberts, national co-coordinator of the Environmental Justice Health Alliance for Chemical Policy Reform, one of the signatories of the charter, says in an emailed statement.
In response, the industry group American Chemistry Council noted its recent statement that US chemical makers are working to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and the emission intensities of their operations. It also pointed to a November blog post by Kimberly Wise White, an ACC vice president, endorsing “the importance of environmental justice and hearing the concerns of local communities.”
Groups endorsing the Louisville Charter are community and state environmental and health organizations as well as national ones including the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, and the Union of Concerned Scientists.