IHS Chemical Week


G20 Summit: Did the New World Order Forget the Chemical Industry?

4:59 AM MDT | April 3, 2009 | By ALEX SCOTT

Leaders of 20 of the world’s largest economies, meeting in London yesterday, agreed on a set of rules designed to prevent a recurrence of the current bank-driven economic downturn. They also pledged a combined $1-trillion package to haul back the global economy from recession. China has agreed to stump up $40 billion as part of the deal. The leaders agreed on global-level quantitative easing, otherwise known as 'printing money,' to free up the wheels of lending.

On the summit: World leaders failed to invest in sustainable manufacture.


The measures could and should help chemical companies, particularly medium-sized and smaller chemical firms with limited cash flow, as well as larger chemical firms faced with tough debt schedules.


The package will, in theory, help end-market sectors such as construction and automotive, which should bring back demand for chemicals from those sectors.


But a major opportunity for a financial stimulus package for environmentally sustainable manufacturing--an area in which the chemical industry undoubtedly has a leading position--has been missed. It’s easy to keep the sustainability issue at arm's length, based on the excuse--as has been the case at the G20 summit--that the economy and the environment are separate issues that are too big to address together at one time. Failure to grasp the nettle of global environmental management, including climate change, however, means that we and our children will be paying much more in financial terms for climate change mitigation later.


Global warming gas (GHG) emissions trading systems appear to be the only tool that international leaders are looking to use to manage climate change at this time. What a shame the G20 summit leaders failed to pledge a financial package, to tackle the underlying financial challenge of environmental degradation, through support for innovation in developing sustainable materials, processes, and energy generation and storage. Was the chemical industry forgotten by G20? I think so. Not only that but the failure to address underlying global environmental issues, including resource scarcity, means they are simply delaying, not preventing, the next economic downfall.

The hope now is that the United Nations climate change summit at Copenhagen next December can deliver something positive for the chemical industry--perhaps financing for sustainable technology--to balance the higher emissions-trading costs that chemical firms know are on the way.



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