UN agrees partnership to spur development of low-carbon cement and concrete

The UN’s industrial development body has agreed to a new partnership with the Global Cement and Concrete Association (GCCA) to help roll out technology, insight, and research tools to decarbonise cement and concrete production across the globe, including a strong focus on the Global South.

UN agrees partnership to spur development of low-carbon cement and concrete

The cement and concrete sector accounts for around 7% of annual global emissions

The UN’s Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the GCCA to develop a new industrial programme.

The partnership will see the UN support GCCA members, which account for 80% of cement production outside of China, in creating enabling market environments to develop low or near-zero emissions cement and concrete.

Additionally, the partnership will coordinate industry events across the globe, publish research and guidance and identify innovative solutions that could accelerate decarbonisation.

UNIDO’s director general Gerd Muller said: “Cement and concrete are a vital part of resilient infrastructure development.  Decarbonizing the cement and concrete sectors worldwide is essential to reducing CO2 emissions and tackling climate change. The GCCA and its members are leading the way on doing so for this important global industry.

“Our UNIDO Member States face a number of technical, market-related and policy hurdles that make decarbonization commitments even more challenging. That is why I am very glad to sign this Memorandum of Understanding with the GCCA and start a new phase of closer cooperation that will help our Member States overcome those challenges.”

Cement and concrete production is hard to abate, accounting for around 7% of global emissions. With the IEA forecasting a 12-23% increase in concrete production by mid-century, from 2018 levels, as trends like urbanisation continue, companies are looking to reduce emissions from the sector.

The GCCA launched a workstream aimed at transforming the sector to deliver carbon-neutral products only by 2050 back in 2021. This scheme, the Concrete Action for Climate initiative, is being run in partnership with the World Economic Forum. Subsequently, the Association launched a set of 2030 climate ambitions for the sector to collaboratively work towards on the road to net-zero by 2050. The GCCA 2050 Net Zero Concrete Roadmap is also in place to help businesses in the sector decarbonise.

The Association has previously worked with businesses in the hard-to-abate sector to explore the feasibility of carbon capture and storage technologies.

However, decarbonisation is a major transition for the sector and around one-third of large concrete and cement firms do not expect to stop using fossil fuels by 2050. That is according to last year’s Corporate Climate Stocktake from the We Mean Business Coalition.

The GCCA’s chief executive Thomas Guillot said: “Through our Net-Zero Roadmap and the accelerator programme we have put in place, we are already working with policymakers, governments and industry to overcome procurement and resourcing challenges across the global south. Having this ground-breaking agreement with UNIDO is a natural progression which we hope will fast-track progress in a meaningful way.”

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