Creating a Carbon-Neutral World Through Chemical Innovation

HomespotlightCreating a Carbon-Neutral World Through Chemical Innovation

Dr. Bradley Morrison, Senior Vice President of BASF Group

‘Creating a Carbon-Neutral World Through Chemical Innovation’ was published in the winter 2021 edition of the German Chamber Ticker. Editor: Noga Feige, Senior Editor of Ticker Magazine. Visuals: Matter Design.


Hotter heat waves, drier droughts, bigger storm surges, melting glaciers: Global warming has become one of the most significant challenges of our times. Solving this crisis is topping the agenda of both the public and the private sector, as we look to safeguard our and future generations.

Following the 2015 Paris Agreement, countries are setting roadmaps to reach carbon neutrality. During the recent UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) held in the UK, world leaders have called for more decisive action and closer collaboration to tackle the climate challenge and contribute to a carbon-neutral world. China and the US, the world’s two largest greenhouse gas emitters, have pledged to act in a joint declaration to boost climate cooperation over the next decade.

This call to action is not merely at the government level: the creativity of each company and individual plays a key role in making real change. It means entrepreneurship and accepting change, experimenting with new ways to tackle the challenges we face, and doing everything possible to avert disaster.

Raising Awareness on Sustainability in China

Over the past decade, Chinese consumer behavior has shifted, as consumers pay more attention to sustainability. The Chinese government has also been driving significant changes in domestic legislation and law enforcement on sustainability and environmental protection across industries, proving the country’s determination to transition toward climate neutrality.

In 2016, China published its “National Action Plan on Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.” In 2020, President Xi Jinping announced the country’s goals to reach carbon peaking by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2060. In 2021, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) announced the country’s 14th Five-Year Plan, specifying that China would implement a sustainable development strategy and promote a green economy and society. Recently, the State Council has rolled out its “Action Plan for Carbon Peaking by 2030”, including reducing waste, promoting renewables and unconventional fuel, and reforming its electricity network.

For the automotive industry, China started implementing the new emission standard ‘China VI’ for light-duty cars in key cities in July 2019, then considered one of the most stringent emission standards in the world. Chinese car owners are also demanding cleaner and more efficient vehicles, with lower or even zero emissions, lighter weight, and sustainable paint.

The construction industry plays a vital role in society, but it is also an energy guzzler. Buildings already account for one-third of energy consumption in metropolises worldwide – not to mention the construction of infrastructure across China. The country is promoting durable and energy-efficient infrastructure that requires fewer resources for maintenance and has a smaller ecological footprint.

Plastic pollution – also known as ‘White Pollution’ – has been the focal point of environmental protection efforts, mainly due to unmanaged consumer behavior. In 2019, China produced 63 million tons of plastic – a great amount which ended up in plastic waste. At the beginning of 2020, the government has issued the “Opinions on Further Strengthening the Control of Plastic Pollution” as a guiding document putting forward a clear development strategy and roadmap for China to strengthen plastic pollution control. Solutions to circular plastics are in the works, such as bio-based or biodegradable materials and new recycling technologies.

The energy challenge is also among the most important and difficult ones confronting the world today. The power generation industry is transitioning to a new energy model. In September 2021, China announced its “Dual Control of Energy Consumption Policy” on energy consumption and energy intensity; NDRC approved the Implementation Scheme of Renewable Electricity Pilot Trade. Meanwhile, infrastructure and facilities for renewable energy generation are expected to be robust and durable.



Chemical and Material Innovation Empowers Transformation of Industries

As the world embarks on a journey to a low carbon, sustainable future, the business sector must play a role in it. Implementing innovative technologies, processes, and economic models on the corporate level will be a climate game-changer.

The chemical industry is a great example: this industry is centuries old, yet keeps innovating and transforming to make life healthier and more sustainable. There would be no low-carbon future without materials, products, and innovation from the chemical industry. Without innovative battery materials, there would be no electric vehicles; no energy-efficient buildings without innovative insulation materials; no wind turbines or solar panels without chemical components making them robust and durable.

Chemical production is energy and CO2-intensive, while products and solutions offered by chemical companies are essential raw materials applied in all downstream industries; therefore, carbon neutrality in the chemical industry is imperative, and innovating the chemical process for petrochemicals is critical.

For example, hydrogen is a vital raw material for producing fertilizers, fuels, and many other chemicals. It is also believed to be the key for future greening steel production and mobility. Innovative new technologies such as methane pyrolysis powered by renewable electricity contribute to greening hydrogen production and help transition to a carbon-neutral world. Greenhouse gases such as CO2 and methane can even be used as raw materials during chemical production.

The chemical industry could also hold the key to tackling white pollution. Large quantities of plastic waste, which currently cannot be recycled, could be transformed into renewable resources using cutting-edge chemical technologies. Bio-based or biodegradable materials could reduce fossil raw materials and contribute to responsible consumption and recycling, ultimately leading to a world free of plastic waste.

Green innovation can often be found at the core of businesses. The need for carbon neutrality is shared by many industries, and will become the driver of new business models and markets. Inter-regional electricity transmission of renewable energy from sources like offshore wind parks is another example. It will replace fossil-based power so that the chemical industry will no longer use steam and combustion to drive machinery, turbines, and reactions, but will innovate new processes that can utilize electricity directly. Such a fundamental transformation of the industry will also require significant investment.

Increasing the use of renewable energy in economically competitive conditions will green the chemical production. Chemical companies in China are actively joining the Renewable Direct Power Purchase (R-DPP) pilot trade, while simultaneously establishing solar photovoltaic applications. They run pilot projects with innovative technologies across the value chain, advancing solutions that reduce and eliminate mismanaged plastic waste and contribute to a plastic circular economy. They hope to make the carbon footprint of products and services transparent to customers and achieve carbon-neutrality goals, which will drive innovation across the value chains


In order to accelerate the transition to a carbon-neutral world, companies must act now. Pioneering companies – including chemical companies like BASF – are already addressing the crisis and the needs of their vendors and customers. They have been committed to sustainability for decades, and have put climate protection as an essential part of the company strategy.

Inspired by solving significant problems such as global white pollution and global warming, companies need to align corporate goals with sustainability and embed them into business operations and business solutions. This transformation requires enormous creativity and enthusiasm to achieve. To start on this net-zero journey, companies must cultivate a change of mindset and behavior within the organization: employees should be encouraged to contribute to a cleaner planet through changing habits and volunteer activities.

With entrepreneurial courage, innovative power, and new technologies, chemical innovations can lead the way to make carbon neutrality a reality. With cross-industry and sector collaborations – along with efforts of each individual – a cleaner, more sustainable way of living will become a reality.


Dr. Bradley Morrison has been the Senior Vice President of BASF Group since 2013. Dr. Morrison is in charge of operations and site management in Greater China. He began his career at BASF in Germany as a post-doctorate in 1993. Over the past 30 years, he has worked at diverse positions in research, marketing, business, site management, product and supply chain management in BASF, with rich cross-regional/cultural experience in Europe, Australia, and Asia. Dr. Morrison holds a Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from the University of Sydney.


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