Only 1.5 degrees Celsius separates our pre-industrial global temperature and what many see as the tipping point for climate change.
The risk is that once that threshold is passed there may be no going back from climate change and all the negative consequences that come with it. The 1.5-degree tipping point is the measuring stick against which everyone must compare themselves.
That includes the building and construction industry. As a supplier of polyurethane-based insulation, adhesives, sealants and coatings, as well as polycarbonate for LED lighting and other applications, Covestro has a role to play in helping the construction industry decarbonize and avoid the climate change tipping point.
How? Covestro’s vision is to become fully circular. To do so, Covestro must tackle the long-term challenges of completely aligning its production, products, and all areas of its business with circular concepts.
In simple terms, it means that we must separate ourselves from fossil fuels as much as possible in an effort to become climate neutral and eventually circular. At Covestro, that looks like the following:
We must find alternative raw materials to replace fossil fuels, such as those based on bio-feedstock, carbon dioxide and recycled products.
We must find ways to use advanced recycling technologies to reintroduce used products back into the value chain.
We must expand our portfolio of lower carbon energy sources to complement existing technologies, with the goal of powering the circular economy with renewable energies.
We must collaborate with others to drive the circular economy forward because it will only be successful when we are all involved.
I am proud to say that Covestro has significant projects underway in every one of those areas and in the future will offer every product in a climate neutral version. The road ahead is still long, but nothing good ever comes easy.
One concrete measure on the path to circularity is climate neutrality. By 2021, Covestro cut its specific greenhouse gas emissions by 54 percent compared to a 2005 baseline, which outperformed our sustainability target set for 2025. Now, we have defined an even bolder target: Covestro aims to become operationally climate neutral and achieve net zero emissions by 2035 for scope 1 and scope 2.
On the path to achieving this goal, Covestro plans to cut the absolute greenhouse gas emissions from its own production (scope 1) and from external energy sources (scope 2) by 60 percent to 2.2 million metric tons by 2030. In addition, indirect greenhouse gas emissions from upstream and downstream processes in the value chain (scope 3) will be further reduced. Covestro intends to announce a reduction target for this in 2023.
To achieve net zero emissions, Covestro anticipates dedicated investments up to EUR 600 million by 2030, resulting in lower operating expenses of expected EUR 50 million to 100 million annually due to increased energy efficiency.
Three levers will make a vital contribution to achieving our climate neutrality targets:
Production processes will be improved, and energy efficiency enhanced to achieve even more sustainable production.
Covestro’s production sites worldwide are to be gradually converted to green electricity.
Steam, an important energy source for chemical production processes, will be generated from renewable energy sources instead of fossil fuels.
When I look beyond the walls of Covestro to the broader chemical industry, much of which is also directly supplies the construction industry, I am encouraged by similar steps being taken elsewhere. Chemical companies are putting a stake in the ground, acknowledging the need to change and laying the foundation to build a better future. Scientists across the chemical industry are creating new technologies that reduce emissions, capture carbon, advance renewable energy and much more. The leading U.S. chemical trade association, the American Chemistry Council, has a list of more than 30 examples of climate-related projects in progress right now.
While the path will look different for every company, the goal is the same. The chemical industry plays a critical role in the vitality of our collective global sustainability efforts, so to see such commitment, is truly inspiring. It cannot, and will not, stop here. We all have our part to play.
For more discussion about circularity in the building industry, check out our recent Green Building Bite with Covestro and University of Pittsburgh's Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation!
Cover photo: Federated Art (Pexels)