Manufacturers aim for carbon-neutral cement by 2050

The global cement industry is estimated to account for 6-7% of man-made greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions annually

Announced today (1 September), the joint industry ‘2050 Climate Ambition’ sees 40 global cement companies commit to delivering a carbon-neutral cement by 2050, aligning with the aspirations of the Paris climate accord. Companies included in the ambition are Cemex, Dalmia Cement and Heidelberg.

Launched by the Global Cement and Concrete Association (GCCA) on behalf of its member companies, the new commitment will focus on eliminating energy-related emissions and deploying carbon capture technologies (CCS). A circular economy will also be prioritised as part of this ambition, with signatories pledging to reuse and recycle concrete used in the construction of buildings, while also harnessing the material’s ability to absorb and store carbon from the atmosphere.

On the circular economy front, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation has claimed that the transition to a circular economy is vital to global carbon-neutral and net-zero commitments.

GCCA’s chief executive Dinah McLeod said: “As we face the challenges for future generations and begin global economic recovery, concrete will be even more critical to building the sustainable world of tomorrow. That’s why we are making this commitment today, in order that our crucial industry aligns with global targets, including the Paris Agreement.

“Concrete has a vital role to play in addressing the need for sustainable communities and prosperity. It is a key ingredient of infrastructure, homes, clean water and community resilience as our climate changes. Crucially, it will also help facilitate the transition to clean/green energy. We believe this journey will be challenging but are fully committed to working together with our members, partners and stakeholders across the industry and supply chain to achieve this ambition.”

Hard-to-abate

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. However, the industry has delivered a 19% reduction in carbon emissions per tonne of cementitious material along with a ninefold increase in alternative fuel use since 1990.

GCCA member companies are currently developing a roadmap for the 2050 ambition, while will set out actions and intermediate milestones. The roadmap is scheduled to be published in the second half of 2021.

Companies within the sector have ramped up approaches to climate action in recent years. Research produced by the Transition Pathway Initiative (TPI), for example, discovered that only 19% of large industrial companies had aligned with a 2C or below pathway.

However, the assessment of the paper, cement, steel, aluminium and chemical sectors discovered that 29% have set targets in line with the Paris Agreement by 2030 – an increase of 24% on 2018. This figure included a doubling of cement firms making pledges.

Last year, Heidelberg Cement signed a memorandum of understanding with multinational energy giant Equinor, in a bid to scale up its efforts in the field of CCS.

Elsewhere, multinational cement and building materials giant Cemex has pledged to reach net-zero across its operations and products by 2050.

Matt Mace

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Comments (4)

  1. Colin Matthews says:

    Jam tomorrow? They need to look at the parasitic load of 11% associated with CCS which means they need to burn more energy to produce the cement. This industry could do significant action today by switching its vehicle delivery fleet to run on biomethane as they are all depot-based and run Limited local milage.
    As for the production units they are generally in very remote areas away from gas mains and therefore how CCS could be utilised has a big question mark.

  2. John Daglish says:

    Why on earth has been EMC Energetically Modified Cement been actively ignored by the cement industry for the last 25 years. EMC cement – OPC (Ordinary Portland Cement) finely inter-ground with sand or puzzoulanes with at least 50% OPC reduction (and hence carbon emissions reductions). Awards won, Bridge built in Sweden 20 years ago, one plant operating in Texas, USA. lowcarboncement.com

  3. Andy Cook says:

    @JohnDaglish – cement replacements are commonly used within the UK. Post-Fly Ash and Ground Granulated Blast Furnace Slag (GGBS) are common substitutes.

    However, these concretes often represent a) a small price uplift (circa. 15%) and b) a delay in striking time due to an lower 7-day strength (although 28 day strength is often the same) so contractors don’t like to use them, as pouring more than one slab adds to the construction programme. . .

  4. John Daglish says:

    EMC has one product EMC-50 that reduces OPC content by 50% and uses quartz rich (73.9% SiO2) mine tailings replacing cement. It has the same 7 day strength of OPC concretes. It is the activation of the componets by intergrinding to produce a greater surface area for chemical interaction that is unique to EMC.

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