Rising emissions a wake-up call for construction sector

The UK's aggregates, cement and concrete industry trade body says it will "take the necessary action" to curb CO2 output after a sector-wide sustainability report revealed an overall increase in emissions in 2013.

The latest sustainability development report from the Mineral Products Association (MPA) suggests that the slight emissions increase from 2012 to 2013 is because cement data has been revised to take into account emissions from all cement manufacturing sites.

Whereas previous data only covered kiln sites manufacturing clinker, the MPA explained that this new data provides a more ‘comprehensive output’ of the industry as a whole. (Scroll down for sustainability report).

MPA chief executive Nigel Jackson said: “The industry sustained its commitment to sustainability throughout the recession, but we acknowledge that, in a number of areas, such as emissions and engagement, performance declined in 2013 and we need to understand why this happened and to take the necessary action.”

Table: Summary results 2014 (2013 data)The UK’s cement and concrete industry contributes almost £1bn to the UK economy each year. In the report, the Association points out that the industry’s rising CO2 output from 2012-13 comes against backdrop of a longer-term decrease in emissions.

“The 28% share of recycled materials in our aggregates markets is three times higher than the European average, carbon dioxide emissions from cement manufacturing are 25% lower than the 1998 baseline per tonne of production and we have now identified more than 6,700 hectares of land in site restoration plans which will be restored to support UK priority habitats and biodiversity,” added Jackson.

The report also notes that the use of cementitious materials such as ground granulated blast furnace slag (a by-product of the iron industry) and fly ash (a waste product from coal-fired power plants) in concrete mixes helps reduce CO2 emissions. Additionally, the asphalt industry is looking at greater use of lower temperature asphalt mixes which use less energy and therefore minimise CO2 emissions.

Carbon price floor

In the report, the MPA criticies the Government’s ‘carbon price floor’, launched in 2011 to bolster the EU price of carbon. The Association states that, “for the energy intensive cement and lime industries, there is growing concern that the impact of UK measures such as the carbon price floor will threaten the competitiveness of the UK industry”.

European state aid rules currently prevent the cement and lime industries from receiving compensation for the cost of the carbon price floor which other UK energy intensive industries, such as steel, iron, paper and plastic, are permitted to receive.

Last year, the future of the Carbon Price Floor came under the spotlight, when the Chancellor George Osborne confirmed a cap at £18 per tonne of CO2 from 2016-2017 to the end of the decade.

REPORT: MPA Sustainable Development 2014

Lois Vallely

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