Cemex targets net-zero concrete by 2050

Multinational cement and building materials giant Cemex has pledged to reach net-zero across its operations and products by 2050, as part of a new climate action strategy.

Cemex targets net-zero concrete by 2050

The global cement industry is estimated to account for 6-7% of man-made greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions annually and is widely considered hard-to-abate. Image: Cemex

The climate action strategy, published late on Wednesday (19 February), binds Cemex to reducing its total carbon footprint across all Scopes by 35% by 2030, against a 1990 baseline.

Cemex had previously set a 30% carbon reduction target within the same timeframe. But the firm said it wanted to set a more ambitious target in the wake of the IPCC’s special report on global warming, which concluded that capping the global temperature increase at 1.5C would require global emissions to fall by 45% by 2030. Moreover, Cemex has already reduced its total carbon footprint by 22% since 1990, surpassing its 2020 target a year early.

The updated 2030 target is a milestone to support Cemex’s new 2050 target to reach net-zero operations and produce only net-zero concrete. The firm claims both new targets were developed using the Science-Based Targets initiative’s (SBTi) methodology, in line with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5C trajectory.

Cemex has confirmed that the net-zero target for its concrete will cover carbon emissions across the life-cycle, including both embedded carbon and that related to the product’s supply chain and use phase.

“In our business, we believe concrete—our end product—has a key role to play in the transition to a carbon-neutral economy, and is an essential component in the development of climate-smart urban projects, sustainable buildings and resilient infrastructure,” the firm said in a statement.

Delivery roadmap

The global cement industry is estimated to account for 6-7% of man-made greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions annually and is widely considered hard-to-abate, given its reliance on sectors such as heat and transport, and the fact that its processes rely on clinker.

With this in mind, Cemex has developed a roadmap to deliver against its 2050 target, outlining how it plans to address these challenges.

The roadmap covers clinker substitutes; electrification using renewably generated energy where possible; alternative fuels for heating and machinery where not; nature-based solutions; carbon capture and storage (CCS) and a circular economy for concrete, given that 45% of global emissions can be attributed to linear material consumption streams.

On CCS, the roadmap details how Cemex is working to bring a string of emerging technologies to scale in the US. It does not detail how much of its emissions reductions the firm is aiming to deliver using these technologies, which do not yet exist at industry scale and are not expected to reach this stage for several years.

As for nature-based solutions, the roadmap details Cemex’s progress in sequestering carbon through conservation and restoration at El Carmen – its wholly-owned nature reserve on the US-Mexico border. El Carmen has stored 11 million metric tonnes of CO2 to date, the roadmap states, with Cemex having applied to reserve’s model to sequester a further 23.5 million tonnes of CO2 biologically across its global estate. In order to accelerate action in this space, this proportion of the roadmap binds Cemex to increase biological sequestration not only across its operations and reserve, but beyond the business. It will work with NGOs including Conservation International, Wild Heritage, Sea Legacy and Global Wildlife Conservation to communicate the benefits of natural climate solutions other businesses and organisations.

Calls to climate action at COP26

The launch of the roadmap comes shortly after CEMEX Europe’s director of public affairs Martin Casey appeared at an Aldersgate Group event in London, where businesses discussed the climate action they would like to see at COP26 in Glasgow in November.

Addressing attendees hailing from all major UK industries, Casey said he would like to see more work on “sector coupling” – joining up net-zero policies across industries which are interdependent, such as cement and heat. Casey also called for stronger rules on carbon pricing and trading, particularly given that the UK is due to leave the EU’s emissions trading system due to Brexit.

Launching edie’s Net-Zero Live 2020

The UK’s largest energy and sustainability event has been transformed into Net-Zero Live, a free-to-attend experience which will unite businesses, policymakers, investors, NGOs, product and solutions providers around a common purpose: to spark new ideas and actions on the path to a net-zero carbon future.

Net-Zero Live will take place on 10-11 November 2020 at Birmingham’s NEC. Find out more, including details about agendas for the four theatres, and register for your free delegate pass here. 

Sarah George

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