UK chemical firms sign energy efficiency deal

UK firms agree to 20% improvement by 2005, German firms under pressure to go further

The UK's Chemical Industries Association (CIA) has signed an agreement with the government to reduce its members' specific energy consumption by 20% by 2005. The deal is the first of its kind to be negotiated in the UK following the success of similar agreements in Germany and the Netherlands.

UK environment minister Michael Meacher yesterday described the agreement as "groundbreaking". Pointing out that "there is no compulsion" behind the deal, he said it showed that "serious players in industry recognise that not only can significant energy savings be made, but that it is in their own interests to do so".

CIA members account for around 15% of UK industrial energy consumption, with just 40 of its members' 310 sites accounting for nearly 80% of the total. By 2005, the agreement is expected to deliver an annual CO2 emissions reduction of up to 900,000 tonnes over and above reductions the industry would have achieved through "business as usual" process efficiency improvements.

But Mr Meacher made it clear that he feels that the target could have been more ambitious. From the 1990 baseline to 1997, CIA members had already achieved nearly three-quarters of the target improvement relative to production levels (ENDS Daily 26 June).

Given this trend, Mr Meacher said he believed the 20% target could "not only be reached, but can be exceeded". He "looked to the industry to do this and to achieve an improvement nearer to 30% if not by 2005, then at least by 2010". The industry's performance will be independently monitored and the targets reviewed annually.

Meanwhile in Germany, an independent research institute - Essen-based RWI - yesterday presented the first monitoring results of the CO2 emissions reductions achieved by 13 sectors in an agreement between the government and the Federation of German Industries (BDI).

It reported that by 1996, the industries had achieved around three-quarters of their overall target to reduce specific CO2 emissions by 20% by 2005 compared to 1990 levels. The chemical and iron and steel industries together contributed nearly half of the total reduction.

The RWI's Andreas Oberheitmann told ENDS Daily that much of the improvement had been contributed in the early 1990s by the closure of plants in eastern Germany. The remaining 5% reduction would be more difficult to achieve - "you cannot close the same plant twice".

Nonetheless, the German government is keen to squeeze further improvements from the industry. In a climate action plan announced two weeks ago, it said it hoped for a further reduction of 10-20 million tonnes of carbon dioxide through renegotiation of the existing agreements with industry (ENDS Daily 11 November). But speaking to journalists yesterday, the BDI's president indicated that industry would be unlikely to accept tougher targets.

Follow Up:
RWI-Essen, tel: +49 201 81 490.

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