In this interview given at the occasion of the opening ceremony of IYBSSD, the president of IUPAC gives his views about how chemistry will help to achieve the SDGs.
What is your scientific activity?
I’m doing catalysts. I’m doing materials that accelerate reactions and do things, for example, transforming CO2 into solar fuels or added value catalysts and materials. So catalysis is used in 90% of chemical processes. It allows us to do more of what we want and less by-products and waste.
What links can you make between your research and sustainable development?
It’ critically important: from fighting climate change to have clean water, chemistry brings the new fertilizers, the new catalyzers that are going to transform CO2 into valuable products. We want to transform also the way we produce energy. So we need new fuels. We need also new batteries, new materials that will allow us to store energy. So all of that has to do with materials, with elements, with minerals and at the end of the day, with chemistry. And in doing so, we produce waste and also we produce gas emissions. That’s why it’s so important to reinvent chemistry, to go from a linear process to a circular chemistry where molecules and processes are designed from the beginning, so their use, reuse and recycle is much more easy.
What is your dearest wish for this International Year?
My holy Grail will be that not only scientists, not only preaching to the choir, but policy makers and industry will be engaged in this big adventure of using science as a problem solver for the Sustainable Development Goals. Scientists can bring their solutions, but that’s not enough. We need the political will. We need the chemical industry. So my wish is that this International Year is going to be a convenor for all the key stakeholders to work together to a more sustainable future.
Interview by Laurent Orluc