Challenges towards a sustainable future

In general, it is a real challenge to write the Editorial. 

When belonging to a family, you are obligated to contribute, share responsibilities, and enjoy common benefits. Professional Networks (PN) are valuable members of the EuChemS family, doing their best in their respective fields. But, is our best good enough? Also, what can be expected in the near future? There are many uncertainties, but we see quite a bright future for Chemistry. 

One of the reasons for a bright future is that the European Commission has recently presented its plan to reduce CO2 emissions with the aim to stop climate change. If we start from the general belief that “Chemistry is responsible for most of the pollution”, one could think that Chemistry does not have a future in this new world. But the contrary is true! 

The EC’s plan includes various points and if accepted, it will influence our daily life substantially. The plan is very careful in maintaining our high standard of living in Europe, but it is also designed to motivate us to save resources and to urge industry to introduce new technologies. Maybe we do not realise it immediately, but the majority of these new technologies involve Chemistry. 

Also, an informal query of EuChemS’ PNs regarding the most important challenges of the respective fields extended our general view and contributed to our vision of a sustainable future and sustainable chemistry. Let’s take a quick look at what the PNs envision! 

Design, synthesis, and characterization of new substances with interesting and useful properties should be a good base for development of many subdisciplines of Chemistry. To be in line with a circular economy and generate less waste, we need greener approaches in selection and development of new methodologies, using appropriate reagents, instruments, and to save energy as much as possible. We need new materials for production and storage of renewable energies.  We need a healthier world. That’s why the development of processes that minimise the release of CO2 and those that avoid the use of fossil fuels as feed stock by replacing them with new materials is important. On the other side, by pressing environmental problems, such as microplastics, use of glyphosate, abatement, and measurements of emerging pollutants, we have a mission to recover our planet and preserve the biosphere with its natural sources of water and living world. This is a challenging future for Chemistry, right?  

An important observation we made from the responses was that these challenges wash away the borders between traditional subfields of chemistry. The major challenge is therefore to work accross borders of (sub) disciplines and meet this way the expectations and needs of our societies.   

The next months (or years) will show how the EC’s plan will survive the complicated process of acceptance: hopefully the goals will not need to be compromised too much when considering the interest of all parties. However, we can be very optimistic that these plans will boost most subfields of Chemistry and chemical research and innovation will be a major, if not the largest contributor of these development.  

Slavica Ražić
Chair of EuChemS Division of Analytical Chemistry and member of the EuChemS Executive Board 

Péter G. Szalay
Chair of EuChemS Division of Computational and Theoretical Chemistry and member of the EuChemS Executive Board  



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