EPCA ’21: EU moves forward with new chemicals regulation – Commission


MADRID (ICIS) – The EU’s executive body must push forward chemicals regulations and force foreign competitors to comply, rather than lowering its standards to stay competitive, an official said on Wednesday of the European Commission.

Diederik Samsom, chief of staff to Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans, responsible for the Green Deal and climate policy, said the key for the EU’s petrochemical industry and manufacturing sectors at large was to ‘go further than other regions, rather than imitating them. .

Samsom was participating in a panel discussion at the 55th Annual European Petrochemical Association (EPCA) conference with chemical executives; the EPCA meeting is being held virtually for the second year.

In a heated debate with CEO of German chemicals company BASF, Martin Brudermuller, also chairman of European business group Cefic, Samsom said the petrochemical industry should expect extended regulations on products. chemicals to further reduce the use of toxic chemicals in manufactured products. or sold in the block of 27 countries.

“Buckle up because it happens. In Europe, we have a tradition of regulating the way we make our products, ”said the EU official.

“The power of the EU is not an army, because we don’t have one. The power of Europe is our consumer market, one of the largest in the world, and we have something to say about how products are made around the world. To enter this market, you must comply [with our
regulations]. ”

Samsom, who received a fierce response from BASF’s Brudermuller on how the European chemical industry is losing market share globally because it becomes uncompetitive, acknowledged that some measures to be taken could hurt the competitiveness.

One measure, in particular, is causing friction between regulators and industry: the Carbon Frontier Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) which charges greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which cause global warming.

The EU has committed through the Green Deal to decarbonize its economy by 2050, in accordance with the 2015 Paris Agreement which aims to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2100, compared to at pre-industrial levels.

But the EU official said the loss of global competitiveness due to certain regulations would be nothing new for European manufacturing.

The EU official admitted that regulation cannot go too far ahead of competitors as it “will kill your own industry”, but it can go “a little further” than others, and your industry can become a world leader, he said.

“Yes, CBAM is not going to create a perfect playing field. We are not in a position to create a monstrous administrative regulation where we can control everything that comes from China. But we can do it with basic raw materials, or fertilizers, or cement. [for example], and therefore is not perfect protection, ”Samsom said.

“So we’re going to find ourselves in a situation where Europe has a competitive disadvantage, which is exactly the situation that Europe has been in for the last 150 years: we have been at the forefront of regulation when it comes to pollution, human rights, social discrimination. The abolition of child labor, for example, has increased costs for industry, but Europe has become a prosperous continent.

While recycling and plastic waste is one of the most pressing challenges facing the petrochemical industry, Samsom said increasing recycling capacity will not be enough, but said a new approach of material design was necessary to achieve true circularity.

The EU official said he often hears chemical officials say they need long-term planning because their factories are built with operations spanning decades: the uncertainty of going completely through A fossil fuel based economic model to a green model can be too difficult to take. in.

Without going into details, he quoted a Chinese proverb: “The best day to plant a tree was 30 years ago. The second best day to plant a tree is today.

However, he admitted that many countries around the world have yet to fully commit to policies to combat global warming.

He said China was showing “some ambition, but we are waiting a little more” and called on big polluters like India, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia or Mexico to fully adhere to the commitments of the Agreement. of Paris as the world prepares to come together in Glasgow. in November for another Conference of the Parties (COP26) on climate change.

Front page photo: Frans Timmermans, European Commission climate policy manager, speaking to journalists in Brussels in July
Source: Stéphanie Lecocq / EPA-EFE / Shutterstock

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