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Chemicals Industry: Enabler of a sustainable future

This is the key message from the EU High Level Group on Chemicals. The report from the High Level Group on the Competitiveness of the European Chemicals Industry was issued 19 February 2009 . The Chemical industry is recognised as an irreplaceable provider of innovations and solutions to downstream industries and the EU economy in general.
The main societal challenges such as climate change, the environment and quality of life can only be tackled with a strong chemicals manufacturing base in Europe, so its overall competitiveness opposite other regions of the world must be enhanced.
   The HLG started 18 months ago and provided a once-in-a-decade opportunity to analyse and understand the key challenges and opportunities for the chemical industry in the coming years. Its main conclusion is that there is a future for the chemical industry in Europe and the key recommendations, among others, are as follows:

• The European chemicals industry is a solution provider for the problem of global climate change and a major contributor to the reduction of CO2 emissions;
• Access to sufficient high quality renewable raw materials at world market prices is essential for a competitive chemicals industry in Europe;
• In terms of better regulation, proper consultation of stakeholders, solid impact assessments, improved communication by the authorities and more harmonised and correct application of the agreed rules are key elements of a good regulatory framework.

According to Mr. Christian Jourquin, Cefic President and CEO of Solvay: “In the current economic and financial crisis, the HLG conclusions and recommendations provide a vision for the long-term viability of our industry. We cannot however overlook the present short-term difficulties which could undermine the fulfilment of this vision. We must now work together with the European Commission and the Member States to ensure that short-term difficulties will be overcome and to create the right conditions for the necessary investments to be made to secure the future of our industry. Only through such actions will Europe keep its chemical industry, an indispensable enabler for a sustainable future.”
   The unique integrated nature of the chemical industry clusters requires a comprehensive and complex infrastructure, both in terms of logistics and production facilities. Competitors around the globe are catching up, taking advantage of lower feedstock and energy prices and having an increasingly skilled labour force. Therefore, the strategic agenda for the European chemicals industry has to build on better legislation, affordable and reliable energy sources, fair and open trade conditions and increased skills and innovation capacities, with special focus on the needs of SMEs.
   In light of the conclusions reached by the High Level Group, Mr. Alain Perroy, Cefic Director General explains: “We need a strong industrial base in Europe if our industry is to bring about solutions to the most demanding challenges of our times. Not only is its economic role at stake, but also its capacity to develop and shape a sustainable future in terms of innovation, technology and research”.
   The European chemicals industry is a leading chemicals production platform, representing about 30% of world production. It provides modern products, materials and enabling technical solutions for virtually all sectors of the economy. With a workforce of 1.2 million people and sales of €537 billion (for 2007), it generates a trade surplus of €35 billion.