A net-zero world needs zero-carbon concrete. Here’s how to do it

-Concrete accounts for 7% of global emissions – and it’s the second-most used material on earth.

-Zero-carbon concrete is therefore a cornerstone of a net-zero global economy.

-A new initiative, Concrete Action for Climate, aims to bring the sector’s stakeholders together to drive this transformation.

A sustainable, zero-carbon global economy will, literally and figuratively, rest on concrete. It is the world’s most-used building material. It is ubiquitous, versatile, affordable, durable, strong and recyclable – and is the second-most consumed substance in the world, after water. It will provide the foundations for our green energy systems, for climate-resilient infrastructure, for safe, healthy, and secure housing, for clean water and for low-carbon transportation around the world. It will be central to meeting many of the world’s Sustainable Development Goals.

But concrete has a significant carbon challenge. The concrete and cement sector currently accounts for 7% of global carbon emissions – predominantly from the chemical reaction that essentially turns limestone into cement, but also from the energy used to produce the high temperatures needed to make it, as well as a smaller amount from its transportation. To meet the needs of a growing, more urbanised, and affluent global population, production is forecast to grow by as much as 38% by 2050 if no intervention is made to use it more efficiently through design, re-use and recycling.

The industry has long recognised it needs to act. Since 1990, it has reduced the carbon intensity of its product by 20%. Last year, the Global Cement and Concrete Association (GCCA) published its Climate Ambition Statement, which sets a target of delivering carbon-neutral concrete by 2050. It brought together 40 of the world’s leading cement and concrete companies (accounting for around 40% of global clinker production), signing up for what will be a challenging transition to eliminate the sector’s climate impact.

This statement is a recognition of the growing urgency of the climate crisis. It is a response to the industry’s customers, who are looking to their suppliers to help them reduce their emissions. It provides an answer to the investor community, which is also becoming increasingly sensitive to the climate crisis. And it is the right thing to do for societies around the world that will continue to need this vital material to develop and thrive.

Opportunities from innovation

The sector has a suite of options that can help to bring down its carbon footprint. Alternative fuels and the electrification of kilns can drive fossil fuels out of its energy use. Its transport infrastructure can be decarbonized. Efficiency of material use can be maximised, buildings repurposed, and recycling can be promoted (concrete is 100% recyclable). Clinker (the main emitting ingredient of cement) is already being substituted with alternative materials where possible, and this can be extended in the coming years along with novel cement use. Carbon-capture technology can also be employed to manage unavoidable process emissions.

But the goal the industry has set is not one it can reach on its own. That is why the GCCA has joined forces with the World Economic Forum to launch the Concrete Action for Climate (CAC) initiative as part of the Mission Possible Partnership (MPP).

The initiative is one of seven high-ambition platforms the MPP is creating with carbon-intensive but essential industry sectors. Each of these platforms is designed to trigger transformational change by bringing together industry-leading companies, their customers, suppliers, investors and policy-makers through cross-industry and multi-stakeholder collaboration.

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Πηγή: weforum.org

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