The world is trying to limit the rise in global temperatures and take the necessary steps toward achieving net zero. It is important because, at least for carbon dioxide, this is the state at which global warming stops.
The US Inflation Reduction Act introduces tax incentives to encourage sustainability.
In August 2022, U.S. Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which includes $369 billion of federal spending to address climate change, $270 billion of which will be delivered through tax incentives. These tax incentives, together with grants and loan guarantees, will be directed to clean-energy efforts to substantially reduce the nation’s carbon emissions by the end of the decade. Clean electricity and transmission will receive the lion’s share of the funds, followed by clean transportation, including electric vehicle (EV) incentives.
As tax credits will comprise the bulk of the IRA’s energy and climate funding, in the corporate sphere, the aim is to drive up private investment in clean energy, transport and manufacturing. On the consumer side, the tax incentives intend to reduce carbon emissions by making energy-saving products and services more affordable, such as rooftop solar panels, energy-efficient appliances, home batteries and geothermal heating.
The EU’s Green Deal Industrial Plan promotes technology advancements for sustainability.
In January 2023, the European Union (EU) unveiled its Green Deal Industrial Plan at the World Economic Forum, a set of industrial initiatives and reforms that support its target of achieving net zero by 2050. As part of the European Green Deal, the plan intends to enhance the EU’s global competitiveness as it transitions to a carbon-neutral economy. In addition to its circular economy action plan, this reinforces the EU’s mission to be a leader on the path to a net zero age.
The first step in the Green Deal Industrial Plan is to scale up the development and production of net zero products and technologies across the next decade, as well as reduce the carbon footprint of energy-intensive industries. The plan also proposes a Net-Zero Industry Act to boost the manufacturing of green technologies, such as solar panels, heat pumps, batteries and windmills, among others.
The EU has already implemented a clear policy framework in some of these areas (such as the Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation) and has launched partnerships that promote the sustainable development of raw materials, solar energy and hydrogen, batteries, and circular plastics.
Is everything coming up roses?
Motivating the world to invest or engage more in sustainable product innovation and manufacturing has become more important than ever. Up to date, there is huge room for creativity in the R&D, engineering and manufacturing processes of sustainable solutions.
When the world is setting the stage with the focus and incentives such as the IRA and Green Deal Industrial Plan, financial or otherwise, being channeled to global and national initiatives, there can still be trade barriers, important decisions driven by emotions, etc., that are to be eliminated to optimize the benefits intended for programs such as IRA or Green Deal.
There will certainly be global competition for sustainable feedstocks and skilled personnel when all four corners of the world are aiming for sustainability. What should be in place are harmonized policies or regulations among countries in the trading of waste and the removal of limitations in the use of certain recyclable materials for better utilization of resources. While localization in some instances works well, the limitation of the import/export of waste and recyclable materials will hinder the efforts spent in efficiently achieving sustainability. Nations may end up not having enough waste as sustainable feedstock.
The concerted efforts for administrations, legislatures, agencies and the chemical industry to work together to develop solutions are the keys to opening doors. The existence of infrastructure also poses another major hurdle to overcome. Needless to say, it takes incredibly careful planning and deployment of resources to bring in the necessary infrastructure to build on.
Our Action Items
Actions that are particularly important for companies during these exciting times include instilling the element of sustainability as early as the product design stage, proactively building up emerging skills required in the arena of the global workforce, and collaborating with international stakeholders in developing sustainable supply chains.
It’s easier said than done, but there is no time like now for nations and value chains to really “open up” and work hand in hand instead of competing with each other for brains or resources. Let’s treat these initiatives as a need to develop actionable items to help realize a circular economy, this time for all.
Take decarbonization as an example to manage scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions. One single company cannot control all. The required collaborations, international or otherwise, are to take place upstream, downstream and horizontally along the value chains. If the world is to do it properly this time, we have to put behind us our difference and wholeheartedly utilize the benefits brought along by globalization.
The changes will not happen overnight, but the sooner we start, the merrier. Needless to say, policies play an important role in driving all these activities. When the requirements on recycled-content/biodegradable or recycling percentage become “mandatory,” the supply of sustainable feedstock and materials will be developed as the demand will increase, which eventually stimulates investment and manufacturing. On the other hand, more efforts will be put into product designs to facilitate both waste collection and recycling.
The World’s Sustainability Journey
Public perception of the world’s journey to sustainability and their behavior will reflect how successful we are in pursuing the same. Innovations utilizing scientific approaches provide objective, measurable, data-driven information, allowing us to make informed decisions. Education and collaboration are paramount. If there is one opportunity that all of us should work together to really change the fate of the next generations, the time is now.
Natalia Scherbakoff is a member of Forbes Technology Council. Get more insights from Scherbakoff’s thought leadership by reading her posts published on Forbes.com.