What does the circular economy have to do with meeting climate goals?

Global demand for construction materials has risen substantially over the past decades. To keep global warming below 2°C, demand for steel and cement must peak by 2030 and fall below 2010 levels by 2070. The construction industry must make longer-lasting buildings and substitute low-carbon materials for high-carbon ones. Nikolaus Hastreiter, Antonina Scheer, Beata Bienkowska, and Simon Dietz (Transition Pathway Initiative, at LSE’s Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment) write that the circular economy should be adopted as a comprehensive approach incorporated into each stage of these materials’ life cycles. In the short and medium-term, investing in zero emissions technologies in parallel to deploying circular economy solutions will be necessary to set construction materials on the path to a low carbon future.

For an answer to the question in the title, you can look at heavy industry. Global demand for construction materials like cement and steel has risen substantially over the past decades and is expected to continue growing (International Energy Agency, 2020a). The cement and steel sectors are big energy consumers and emitters of greenhouse gases; together they account for nearly 17% of global CO2 emissions. (Assuming global COemissions of 36.8 gigatonnes (Gt), cement emissions of 2.4 Gt, steel emissions of 3.7 Gt.) They are also sectors where greenhouse gas emissions are particularly difficult to abate. The Transition Pathway Initiative showed in a recent report that only a minority of cement and steel producers are currently on track to keep the global temperature rise to below 2⁰C. Moreover, the few companies with ambitious long-term climate commitments mostly lack corresponding ambition in the shorter term. Only one out of five leading cement companies that are aligned with a 2⁰C emissions pathway in 2050 is also aligned in 2030.

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Πηγή: blogs.lse.ac.uk

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