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Solar impulse backers can help hasten global clean technologies drive

Posted on November 24th, 2016 by in Chemicals Industry News and Analysis


The Paris climate change accord is held out as the beacon of hope for those who believe sincerely in anthropomorphic climate change. Many of the accord’s adherents would also argue strongly for further, concerted global action to stem greenhouse gas emissions.

US president-elect Donald Trump has stated loud and clear that he is one of the naysayers. He has strong backing among groups which would love to roll back President Obama’s climate action plan and give stronger support to the fossil fuel industries.

So what happens next as regards the landmark, global climate agreement very much hangs in the balance, although the steps being taken worldwide to shift away from the burning of fossil fuels should not be underestimated.

It is this underlying trend that ultimately will have the greatest impact. The incentives to adopt clean technologies are so much better understood now than only a few years ago. A generation is growing up keen to live in a cleaner world and one in which industries and individuals pollute less.

So the argument is not simply about wind power in one part of the world or other alternative sources of energy in others. It is about the total, overarching drive to produce cleaner electricity and deliver it more effectively. Cleaner motive power is part and parcel of that drive.

At the recent COP22 climate meeting in Marrakech, the Solar Impulse Foundation launched the World Alliance for Clean Technologies, an initiative born out of the first solar powered flight around the world.

It is not surprising to see two chemical companies giving their support to the clean technologies initiative. Materials makers Solvay and Covestro understand the opportunities as well as the challenges that lie ahead as regards the battle against climate change and how their products and technologies might be applied in future.

Solvay was Solar Impulse’s first partner. “The success of Solar Impulse has proven to the world how powerful collaborative innovation between visionary entrepreneurs and companies that believe in science and research can be to deliver technological breakthroughs. This is just the beginning of what open collaboration and innovation can do to combat climate change,” said Solvay CEO, Jean-Pierre Clamadieu, as creation of the alliance was announced.

This is all about taking the far-seeing and outrageously ambitious Solar Impulse initiative much, much further.

“We need to embrace clean technologies, not because they are ‘eco-logical,’ but because they are ‘logical,’” said chairman of the Solar Impulse Foundation and one of the Solar Impulse pilots, Bertrand Piccard.

“Even if climate change didn’t exist, energy efficient technologies would make sense to create jobs, generate profit and boost economic development, while also reducing CO2 emissions and protecting natural resources,” was his most telling point.

Clean technologies make sense for most people in most places. But, until now, there has been no organization specifically designed to accommodate clean technology stakeholders.

The alliance says it will “bring together start-ups, companies, institutions and organizations producing, implementing or supporting the use of clean technologies. Together, the members will share experiences and create synergies in order to improve the overall value chain and demonstrate concrete solutions to support governments, corporations and institutions in reaching their environmental and health targets, advising them depending on their specific situation.”

Covestro’s chief sustainability officer, Richard Northcote, said: “Our contribution to the Solar Impulse project proved that we have the technology to make the world a brighter place and through this alliance we intend to accelerate the implementation of these technologies to tackle the challenges society faces while generating business growth.”

It will be fascinating to see what the alliance’s first projects are.

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All opinions shared in this post are the author’s own.

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