Avoided Emissions are key to Taking Action on Climate Change
Canada’s chemistry industry is already a world leader in low-intensity carbon chemical production due to the abundance of low-carbon feedstocks, its relatively new plants and equipment, process and product re-engineering and energy conservation measures. These reductions are the result of significant new investments, including more than $12 billion in the last decade alone.
Very few people appreciate the fact that more than 95 per cent of all manufactured products rely on chemistry. Nor do they understand that addressing the challenges of clean energy, clean air, clean water and of a sufficient supply of safe and nutritious food on a global scale is entirely dependent on chemistry-based solutions.
To meet the global climate challenge, Canada must fully develop the potential of the chemistry industry so it can deliver innovations and solutions that effectively reduce emissions both within the industry and throughout the Canadian economy. From improved building insulation and lighter plastics for automobiles, to the production of solar and wind energy equipment, these, and other innovative chemistry products and processes are essential in helping society meet its needs while reducing its carbon emissions. It has been shown that globally there would have been 11 per cent more total GHG emissions in 2005 in a world without the chemistry industry.
Today, research shows that for every unit of GHG emitted as part of chemical manufacturing, the industry’s products and technologies result in a net reduction of 2.6 units of emissions during a product’s lifecycle - from extraction of feedstock and fuel, through production, ultimate use and end of life disposal. Using emerging technologies, this ratio increases to more than 4:1. By far, avoided emissions, in the use phase of chemistry-derived products, represents the greatest contribution that the sector continues to make in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and energy demand economy-wide.
The industry is resolute in its efforts to work with governments to develop effective long-term regulatory policies that successfully minimize the impacts of climate change without impeding necessary innovation, investments and growth.
Looking at innovation in the chemistry sector, several game changer technologies have already been implemented in Canada. In particular, taking advantage of the growing availability of shale-gas in North America, the industry is now producing olefins in Canada through ethane cracking process which brings up to an 8 to 10-fold energy-saving and proportional GHG reductions versus naphtha or coal based processes used in Asia, by far the world’s largest chemicals producing region.
In Canada, Governments will have a role to play in supporting the development of the lowest carbon-intensive feedstocks and energy sources, such as shale-gas, used in the production of chemicals and in allowing for the safe and secure transport of these materials to the chemical facilities where they can contribute to improving the overall environmental footprint of the industry.
Of all the energy consumed around the world, one third is used for heating and cooling buildings. In Canada, with moderate improvements to energy efficiency standards in new buildings and a moderate increase in renovation of existing buildings, global GHG emissions from buildings could decrease by 12 per cent by 2050. More aggressive energy efficiency standards for new builds and more ambitious renovation rates could see as much as a 25 per cent reduction.
Advanced Lighting Solutions are a significant emission reduction lever. LED bulbs have a nearly 40 per cent greater efficacy (lumens per watt) than CFL bulbs, have a four times greater life expectancy, do not contain mercury, are less fragile and are dimmable allowing for further energy savings. Canada should promote and support the rapid deployment of LED lighting in all buildings and outdoor applications.
Transportation is another sector that requires a careful look. Since 1992, GHG emissions from Canada’s transportation sector have increased by a whopping 33 per cent. Manufacturing lighter vehicles with parts made of new plastics and composite materials will be essential to tackling emissions from this vital sector. In addition, the need to electrify private and public transport will depend upon advances in energy storage solutions and low carbon fuels developed by our sector.
Chemistry enables nearly every renewable power generation source such as the composite materials in wind turbine blades, photovoltaic panels, biofuels and even nuclear and hydro-power. It also plays a critical role in the electronics industry which is now a component of modern life.
In our engagement with governments we offer the following principles to guide more appropriate domestic climate action policies:
• Identify the potential for emissions’ reductions in sectors beyond manufacturing, which accounts for less than 30 per cent of GHG emissions, notably the buildings, transportation, food and renewable energy sectors.
• Introduce minimum energy performance in building codes and provide incentives for owners to increase insulation values for new and existing buildings.
• Provide assistance during the development and deployment of pre-commercial emission reduction technologies in chemical manufacturing.
• Recognize that technological innovation and step-change emissions reductions are completely dependent on new capital investment. Carbon policies must be designed in a manner that encourages rather than discourages future investment and economic growth through new builds, even if this means short-term emissions growth.
• Create a new Low Carbon Economy Trust to help fund projects that materially reduce carbon emissions.