The World Chemical Summit receives the support of European institutions

29 junio 2017

The European Parliament hosts the presentation of Fira de Barcelona's new event

The World Chemical Summit receives the support of European institutions

On 8 June, the headquarters of the European Parliament in Brussels hosted the international presentation of the World Chemical Summit (WCS), the new event organised by Fira de Barcelona to showcase the contribution that chemicals make to present-day society. The presentation took place as part of the conference entitled ‘The chemical industry as an engine of European competitiveness', which brought together experts and European MPs to show their support for the WCS, which will be held on 4 and 5 October at the Gran Via exhibition centre.

Euro-MP Jordi Solé welcomed conference delegates, emphasising the fact that ‘the objective of the European Parliament is to improve the lives of our 500 million citizens', a mission shared by the chemical industry, which ‘has the power to shape our lives and improve our standard of living now and in the future.'

In this respect, Solé highlighted ‘the key role that the chemical industry plays in many aspects of our daily lives: in the prevention and treatment of diseases, in achieving sustainable economic growth, and in mitigating climate change,' amongst other examples. Jordi Solé was confident that the seminar would contain ‘inspirational presentations for discussing the role of chemistry, science and technology in our society.'

He was followed by the Deputy Director-General in charge of Efficiency Policies and Instruments at the DG Environment of the European Commission, Joanna Drake, who noted that ‘in the last ten years, most European citizens believe that the chemical industry is safer.' According to Drake, this change in social perception is due to ‘the extension of EU legislation' in this area and initiatives such as the Sustainable Care and Suschem programmes. In this respect, Drake called for ‘public authorities and the chemical industry to continue working together in this direction.'

The circular economy and the chemical industry

The Commission's senior official also referred to the relationship between the circular economy and the chemical sector. ‘The chemical industry is a supplier to every sector,' and needs to tackle three major challenges, these being ‘pollution, the manufacture of toxic products, and the scarcity of resources,' she commented. Similarly, she warned of the ‘huge importance of safety assessment,' and the adoption of 100% recycling.

‘In the future, all chemicals must be classified as safe within the framework of the circular economy,' she said. Drake concluded by noting that ‘REACH is just a starting point' and announced that ‘the European Commission is preparing a new interface between chemicals and existing waste legislation, with the need to improve the development and monitoring of quality standards.'

The representative of the Chemical Sector of the European Commission's DG for Growth, Timoteo de la Fuente García, revealed the trends of the future in the European chemical industry and its role in the current employment programme (FP9) enshrined in the Horizon 2020 programme. De la Fuente highlighted the fact that ‘the European chemical industry accounts for 1.1% of the European Union's GDP, with sales of over 500 billion euros, and generates 1.1 million direct jobs,' and pointed out that this is a sector with ‘intensive energy consumption and high resource efficiency, but whose output is mismatched with its energy consumption, which differentiates it from its major competitors, the United States and the Middle East.' He also said that ‘Europe is a stable market that offers more quality than quantity from an industrial perspective than China or India.'

In his opinion, ‘resource efficiency and innovation' are the two factors that will allow the sector to progress in Europe, and revealed various initiatives from the DG for Growth such as helping small and medium-sized enterprises to replace potentially high-risk substances or drawing up a plan of action on the circular economy, amongst other matters.

Europe and other regions

Meanwhile, the Executive Director of Industrial Policy at the European Chemical Industry Council (CEFIC), René van Sloten, said that the ‘chemical industry could make a key contribution to sustainability in response to the demands made by society.' Van Sloten explained that ‘the European chemical sector is made up of 29,000 companies (96% of which are SMEs) which represent 14.7% of global sales.'

The CEFIC representative accused Europe of ‘losing the race against other regions due to the availability of raw materials, energy costs and the cost of implementing regulations, amongst other factors.'

Van Sloten claimed that ‘the chemical industry wants to move towards a circular economy,' but contended that ‘this transition should not lower the competitiveness of companies in the sector.' For this reason, he announced that CEFIC will be seeking a new European industrial strategy in which ‘the industry should see itself as a partner and not as the target of certain policies.'

The president of the Advisory Board of the World Chemical Summit, Josep Maria Gascón, presented the event, contending that ‘it has an ambitious mission, which is to become a forum at which science, industry and society will inspire the future.' In this respect, Gascón emphasised that the ‘added value of the World Chemical Summit is its cross-cutting nature, both in terms of its themes and its participants.' The WCS will be structured around six key themes: Energy, Water and Air, Food, Health, Resource Efficiency and Digital Society.

‘Barcelona is both international and innovative, and a centre of science and technology transfer,' he said, inviting attendees to come and visit the World Chemical Summit.

The director of the European SPIRE project, Àngels Orduña, concluded the seminar by highlighting the fact that the FP9 programme ‘needs to have the backing of a committed industry' and noted that ‘competitiveness and sustainability must go hand-in-hand.' Finally, she highlighted the importance of ‘designing a strategy that will attract investment in the European Union.'

Barcelona, June 2017
Eduard Pérez Moya

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