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Thursday, 8 October 2009

Climate Change: Rising To The Challenge


Moderating the Global Chemical Industry Convention in Lisbon this weekend, I was not surprised to hear that the chemical industry believes it is part of the solution to climate change.  And indeed it is.  Innovation and technology have a key role to play in finding answers to the environmental challenges which our society faces today.  But to be realistic we must accept that industry, all industry and not just the chemical industry, is also part of the problem.  Which means our society too is part of the problem.  Which means that each and every one of us has a role to play.

We over-consume, fly, drive and over-heat our inefficient homes and while technology and innovation are likely to keep providing improvements to transport and energy efficiency, it often feels like we are waiting for someone else to provide the solutions.  I explored the idea of the balance of crisis with the speakers and it was reassuring to hear industry leaders saying that they were used to managing projects with different schedules and that environmental issues could not be ignored in the face of the economic downturn.  Smart companies do see environmental challenges as a business opportunity and they will be the ones to come out of the other end of the economic crisis in better health.

The European Commission said it would not hesitate to regulate on environmental issues and particularly to promote environmentally-sound products if the market did not act on its own.  I couldn't help pointing out that experience often shows that industry can act faster, more inclusively and more efficiently when it acts in a self-regulatory way, a crowd-pleaser of an argument if ever there was one.  Yet so much of the innovation seems like a drop in the ocean.  We always stress that communicating on sustainability should be done in a positive way and this post does sound a bit gloomy.  On a positive note, industry understands what has to be done and is already in the process of developing life-cycle assessments and other tools to eco-audit.  The next year with the balance between climate and economy will be very interesting.

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