Industry outlines ‘real-world’ roadmap towards net zero-emissions in concrete and cement

Net Zero cement production

Ten of the world’s largest concrete companies and cement plants, including Heidelberg, Cemex and Holcim, have joined architects, engineers, and construction firms in a collective acknowledgement for action in the sustainable production of concrete and cement.

Mission Possible Partnership (MPP) has developed a new strategy with industry input, that sets out milestones and commitments needed by government, industry and investors over the next 25 years to make net zero emissions concrete and cement a reality.   

Concrete is the world’s most widely used material after water, and with cement, it is an essential part of the global economy, critical to buildings, transportation, and other infrastructure. 

The sector currently generates 8% of global CO2 emissions: more than aviation and shipping combined. 

The challenge of increasing emissions is becoming more urgent as production of concrete and cement is increasing to meet global needs. 

Without efficiency gains, demand for cement is projected to increase by 50% by 2050.  

‘Making Net Zero Concrete and Cement Possible’ shows, through its Net Zero scenario,  how the sector can reach net zero GHG emissions.

Mission Possible Partnership CEO, Faustine Delasalle, says: “Our report sets out precisely what needs to happen to make zero carbon concrete and cement a reality, but time is not on our side. 

"The moment to roll up our sleeves and work together across the value chain and with governments is now. Immediate collaboration and cooperation – from producers through design and construction – together with policymakers and finance – is essential to making the necessary progress this decade. "  

The report states 22% emissions reduction can be achieved on the demand side through efficiency improvements in construction and design reducing the volume of concrete needed without compromising safety or durability.   

In addition, a 25% reduction can be achieved in process emissions on the supply side by deploying Supplementary Cementing Materials (SCMs) to decrease the use of clinker; whilst bringing alternative chemistries to commercial stage.   

In total, 53% of emissions can be reduced, eliminated or captured through a combination of fuel switch, power sector decarbonisation and carbon capture utilisation and storage (CCUS).  

CCUS currently has the largest emissions saving potential of all available technologies, and 33-45 new CCUS plants with an annual capacity of 80 megatonnes (Mt) of CO2 must be in operation by 2030 for the industry to stay within its carbon budget. 

However, new data from MPP’s tracking of green industrial projects – released by MPP for COP28 – shows that the current pipeline falls short, as projects struggle to reach FID. Fifteen plants have so far reached this critical point.    

MPP is calling for immediate action across the concrete production value chain from industry, governments and financial institutions worldwide to create an enabling environment for innovation and decarbonisation. 

Its roadmap details actions needed in the short and long term - between now and 2050 - to rapidly decarbonise the sector.  

It has set out a series of longer term and near-term milestones.

By 2025, it would like to see Governments permitting increased use of SCMs and using procurement power to bring about deployment and concrete demand reducing by 4% compared with business-as-usual.

CO₂ transport and storage plans should also be put in place by 2025, with construction starting across three regions.  

Collective acknowledgement for the strategy, from a wide variety of companies and the largest in the concrete and cement sector reflects the growing momentum of business for action in the near term. 

Making Net-Zero Concrete and Cement Possible joins a series of industry transition strategies, backed by 200+ industry players and developed by MPP to guide decarbonisation of seven hardest-to-abate sectors.    

A number of industry leaders have acknowledged the report.  

Juan Esteban Calle, CEO, Cementos Argos says: “At Argos, we are committed to making possible the construction of housing and infrastructure dreams to enable a more sustainable, prosperous, and inclusive society. That is why we are conscious of the importance of reaching net zero by 2050 while the countries where we operate keep developing.” – 

Javier Durand, Cementos Pacasmayo S.A.A adds: “The concrete and cement transition strategy is a relevant user friendly guide towards the decarbonisation needed around the world, as it clearly describes the general global actions that need to be taken to achieve carbon neutrality in 2050. 

"However, there is still a pressing need to dive deeper into regional and local insights and differences in mitigation, adaptation and opportunities, and the regional and country roadmaps especially within developing countries, since cement and concrete are essential for the achievement of sustained economic growth and the eradication of poverty and to mitigate the effects of climate change; therefore a successful implementation will need to reconcile this reality with appropriate public policies that take into account local challenges and needs, and the economic cooperation of economies that have already developed.”   

Fernando A. Gonzalez, CEO of Cemex, says: “We welcome all organisations and efforts to decarbonise the cement industry and we support the main conclusion of the STS report that Net Zero transition is possible. There is much to be done on the road to Net Zero,  and we need the collaboration of public and private sector to achieve the regulatory changes necessary to accelerate the transition.”

Read the full report and roadmap.

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