Responsible for some 35 percent of global electricity use, 20 percent of CO2 emissions, and a quarter of primary resource extraction, manufacturing has a major impact on the environment and must be factored into the climate change equation. At the same time, the sector’s economic importance cannot be ignored: including extraction and construction, manufacturing currently accounts for 23 percent of worldwide employment.
Changing the way industries make things will go a long way towards mitigating manufacturing’s negative environmental impacts. In some cases, simply re-designing a product can improve not only the product’s life span, but also lead to a more efficient use of resources, easier recycling, and less pollution during the manufacturing process and life of the product. Modern innovations like recycling heat waste and closed-cycle manufacturing can save both resources and money. Remanufacturing and reconditioning, both labor-intensive activities, can create jobs and require relatively little capital investment.
To enable these innovations, regulatory reforms and new policies will need to be set in motion, as well as mechanisms that ensure that environmental cost is factored into producers’ calculations.
UNEP’s work on manufacturing-related climate change issues includes: