Can we de-fossilize chemicals and materials: fact or fiction? Sources of non-fossil carbon in a net-zero economy for the chemical and materials sector
Can we de-fossilize chemicals and materials: fact or fiction?
Sources of non-fossil carbon in a net-zero economy for the chemical and materials sector.
As the world enters its most urgent climate crisis with many planetary boundaries crossed and the effects of climate change obvious to all, the need to decouple our economies and societies from fossil fuels becomes ever more urgent. Over 70% of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas arise from fossil fuel, the larger proportion of which arises from combustion for energy. Although our response to climate change has been slow, there are now clear technological solutions for renewable energy which could allow a route to net zero carbon in this important sector. Less certain is how we de-carbonise industry where the de-carbonization issues are even more challenging. These include challenges such as the probable use of fossil-like fuels for high-temperature combustion (e.g. in the cement, glass and ceramic industries as well as aviation).
The chemical industry alone accounts for around 10% of the use of fossil fuels emitting some 3 – 5 Gt CO2 (6 -10% of global emissions). Our demand for the chemicals and materials (e.g. plastics) that are borne of fossil fuels is increasing, and by 2050 alone, our demand for plastic will reach 1 Bt and may account for up to 30% of global emissions.
A largely unanswered question is where the carbon we need for chemicals and materials comes from if not fossil resources. Many approaches are being studied but remain far from large-scale implementation.
- The capture and conversion of CO2 may be a step forward, and several technologies are proposed:
- Conversion of various forms of biomass (from waste through agriculture and ocean sources) to chemicals, plastics and fuels and contribute to a global bioeconomy.
- The circular economy may provide savings by extending the life of products, increasing reuse and the recycling of components and materials.
- Synthetic photosynthesis may also develop as a direct route to carbon chemical and material building blocks.
This meeting will address key issues in developing non-fossil-based carbon sources for sustainable development. AMBER’s Director Prof Mick Morris and Executive Director Dr Lorraine Byrne are Conveners of the session.
Topics such as the following will be described by world-leading experts:
- Challenges in a net-zero carbon industry and the role of circularity: Prof. M A Morris (AMBER & Trinity College Dublin)
- The need to equitably capture socially-created wealth and give nations’ citizens primary stakeholder status when it comes to implementing/paying for low carbon/circular economy advances : Dr. Marty Rowland (Third Leg Consultants)
- European Advanced Materials Initiative 2030 and its ambitions to shape both policy, research and deployment of materials technologies within Europe: Dr. Philippe Jacques (EMIRI)
- Economic and socioeconomic impacts of low carbon/green technologies for a large developing country : Dr. Ulka Kelkar, Director, Climate program, WRI India
- Panel Moderator: Mr Kevin O’Sullivan, Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times.
The meeting will run for 3/3.5 hours with presentations for 2 hours, followed by an in-depth panel discussion to define the challenges and direction needed to meet these challenges globally. The results will be published as a critical review.