Pharmaceutical companies put 13 percent more CO2 emission allowances on the market than car manufacturers, despite a market that is 28% smaller.
Researchers analyzed existing public data on carbon emissions from around 200 pharmaceutical companies worldwide.
They also did a more focused analysis of emission reports from 15 leading drug manufacturers in the industry, including Bayer AG, Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer.
Emission levels were very variable, they thought, even if they took into account the differences between larger and smaller companies.
Pharmaceutical manufacturers emit greenhouse gases from their factories directly from the factories as a result of their production processes and indirectly through power consumption.
Nevertheless, financial results do not mean that companies have to pollute, with the three most successful companies also the least polluting.
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Pharmaceutical companies deliver 13 percent more carbon emissions than car manufacturers despite a market that is 28 percent smaller (inventory)
WHY DOES LARGE PHARMA HAVE A LARGE CARBON FOOTPRINT?
Emission reduction measures have traditionally been aimed at industrial sectors such as energy production, car production and mining.
However, studies are starting to emphasize that the carbon footprint of the healthcare sector – and in particular the pharmaceutical sector – is also a major problem.
In 2007, for example, researchers discovered that the US health care sector accounted for eight percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.
Pharmaceutical manufacturers emit greenhouse gases directly from their factories into the atmosphere as a result of their production processes.
Moreover, these companies indirectly produce emissions from the carbon dioxide released during the production of the electrical energy that they use in their production systems.
Drug companies can also cause other forms of pollution, such as accidental leakage of medicines into the environment.
Environmental engineers Lotfi Belkhir and Ahmed Elmeligi from McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, tried to analyze the CO2 emissions of large pharma.
In addition to the existing emissions data from the approximately 200 pharmaceutical companies worldwide, researchers focused their analysis on the 15 companies that have consistently reported both their direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions since 2012.
Indirect emissions are emissions that are not the result of the operational management of each company, but of the emissions that result from their share in the electricity produced by energy companies.
Because larger companies will inherently generate more emissions than their smaller counterparts, the researchers assessed the emission intensity of each company per million dollars in revenue.
& # 39; An immediate and striking result is that the pharmaceutical sector is far from being green & # 39 ;, Professor Belkhir wrote in The conversation.
The researchers discovered that the global pharmaceutical sector will distribute around 48.6 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per million dollars in 2015.
Professor Belkhir reports that this is & # 39; 55 percent larger than the automotive sector, against 31.4 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per million dollars for the same year. & # 39;
& # 39; However, our recent study has shown that the global pharmaceutical industry is not only making a significant contribution to global warming, but is also dirtier than the global automotive manufacturing sector, & # 39; he added.
Total global emissions from the pharmaceutical sector amounted to around 52 megatons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2015, compared to the 46.4 megatons that car production sets out in the same year.
The researchers note this, despite the fact that the production of medicines is a smaller market than the automobile industry.
"According to our calculations, the pharmaceutical market is 28 percent smaller and yet 13 percent more polluting than the automotive sector," said Professor Belkhir.
Emission levels vary enormously in the pharmaceutical sector, the researchers found. For example, Eli Lilly and Company (photo, stock image) had an emission intensity in 2015 that was 5.5 times greater than their colleague company Roche Holding AG
In addition to the existing emissions data from the approximately 200 pharmaceutical companies worldwide, researchers have focused on their analysis of the intensity of emissions from the 15 companies that have consistently reported both their direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions since 2012.
Emission levels also vary enormously within the pharmaceutical sector, researchers found.
For example, the emission intensity of Eli Lilly and Company in 2015 was 5.5 times greater than Roche Holding AG, against 77.3 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per million dollars, compared to 14 tonnes.
Similarly, experts found that Procter & Gamble's CO2 emissions were about five times as high as that of competitor Johnson & Johnson, despite the fact that the two companies are selling similar products and generating the same level of sales.
Professor Belkhir and Mr. Elmeligi also encountered challenges in accurately assessing emissions from some companies, such as Bayer AG.
They were surprised when they discovered that the German company had reported that it emitted 9.7 mega tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2015, while it received sales of $ 51.4 billion (£ 40.7 billion) in the same period.
This would result in an emission intensity of 189 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per million dollars – a level that is four times greater than the pharmaceutical sector as a whole.
Researchers found that the reason for this extreme outlier was the way in which Bayer aggregates his emission data from his pharmaceutical, medical equipment and agricultural product divisions, despite separately declaring income.
& # 39; This degree of transparency makes it impossible to assess the actual environmental performance of these types of companies & # 39 ;, says professor Belkhir.
He added: & # 39; It also raises questions about the sincerity of these companies' strategies and actions to reduce their contribution to climate change. & # 39;
Researchers encountered challenges in accurately assessing emissions from some companies, such as Bayer AG, which are aggregating its emission data from all pharmaceutical, medical equipment and agricultural product divisions.
Finally, the research duo estimated how much the pharmaceutical sector would have to cut back on its greenhouse gas emissions in order to achieve the objectives set out in the 2016 Paris Climate Agreement.
& # 39; We discovered that the general pharmaceutical sector should reduce its emission intensity by around 59 percent by 2025 compared to the level of 2015, & # 39; said Professor Belkhir.
Although this would generally require a radical adjustment, the researchers discovered that some of the 15 largest pharmaceutical companies are already operating at conforming levels.
These companies were Amgen Inc., Johnson & Johnson and Roche – the three companies with the highest levels of profitability and revenue growth in the sector.
Lead performer Roche increased its revenues by 27.2 percent compared to 2012-2015, while emissions decreased by 18.7 percent, for example.
Meanwhile, Amgen and Johnson & Johnson reported a revenue increase of 7.8 and 25.7 percent respectively and an emission reduction of 8 and 8.3 percent in the same period.
& # 39; Environmental and financial performance are not mutually exclusive, & # 39; said Professor Belkhir.
& # 39; If those performance levels are achievable by some, & # 39; he asked, & then why can't they be reached by everyone? & # 39;
Few previous studies have investigated the environmental impact of the pharmaceutical industry, the researchers noted, although there were some exceptions.
A 2014 study, for example, discovered that waster water from drug plants in Patancheru, India brought 44 kilos of the antibiotic ciprofloxacin daily to water – enough to treat about 44,000 patients
"It is clear that there is a great need for more extensive and expensive research and more attention for the environmental practices and performance of the pharmaceutical industry," Professor Belkhir concludes.
& # 39; Curing people is not a justification for killing the planet. & # 39; he added.
The full findings of the study are published in the Journal of Cleaner Production.
WHAT IS THE PARIS AGREEMENT?
The Paris Agreement, first signed in 2015, is an international agreement to control and mitigate climate change.
He hopes to keep the global average temperature rise below 2 ° C (3.6 ° F) & # 39; and to make further efforts to limit the temperature rise to 1.5 ° C (2.7 ° F) & # 39; .
It seems that the more ambitious goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 ° C may be more important than ever, according to earlier research that claims that 25 percent of the world can see a significant increase in dryer.
In June 2017, President Trump announced his intention for the US, the second largest producer of greenhouse gases in the world, to withdraw from the agreement.
The Paris Agreement on Climate Change has four main goals for reducing emissions:
1) A long-term objective to keep the global average temperature rise well above 2 ° C above pre-industrial levels
2) strive to limit the increase to 1.5 ° C, as this would significantly reduce the risks and consequences of climate change
3) Governments agree that global emissions should be achieved as quickly as possible, recognizing that this will take longer for developing countries
4) Then undertake rapid reductions in accordance with the best available science
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