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Revising standards could slash cement emissions by over 50%, says newly formed Alliance for Low-Carbon Cement & Concrete

Published by , Assistant Editor
World Cement,

A new ground-breaking study by the multi-stakeholder Alliance modelled different mitigation scenarios, in which the clinker-to-cement ratio in Europe incrementally decreases to 60%, 50%, or 40% by 2050, resulting in significant CO2 reductions of more than half, in what has so far been seen as a hard to decarbonise sector.

  • After water, concrete is the most used material on Earth. Its main ingredient, cement, has a significant environmental footprint, accounting for a staggering 7 – 8% of global CO2 emissions – almost four times the emissions produced by aviation.
  • The main culprit of these emissions is the production of clinker, the key ingredient from which traditional cement and concrete derive their binding properties.
  • Cement has a reputation of being hard to decarbonise. But solutions exist.
  • The newly formed Alliance for Low-Carbon Cement & Concrete puts forward ready-to-deploy solutions to cost-effectively decarbonise the cement value chain faster than anyone expects – if overly prescriptive rules stop blocking them from the market.
  • Cement standards are highly prescriptive in nature, rigorously outlining what ingredients are to be used in the cement mixes – and in what quantities. They effectively block low-carbon solutions from entering the market at scale.
  • Performance-based standards are vital for creating a level-playing field for low-carbon cement and concrete.
The writing is on the wall: cement has an emissions problem. But we can fix it

With a forecasted 50% increase in demand by 2050, cement emissions will continue to rise unless low-carbon solutions are urgently adopted. Many such solutions exist and could be scaled up rapidly. Enabling policies, standards, and financing instruments will accelerate the deployment of these technologies.

Cement has the image of being hard to decarbonise, but it is time to bust this myth: the newly formed Alliance for Low-Carbon Cement & Concrete, a group of progressive actors present in key markets in Europe, propose safe and cost-effective solutions, ready to be deployed at scale.

For this to happen, Europe needs to make decarbonisation a realistic choice, ensuring a regulatory and standardisation framework that will allow material innovation to kick in at full force.

Today, standards governing a product’s ability to enter the European cement and concrete market are not fit for purpose. They contain recipe-based, rather than performance-based, provisions, locking in the consumption of high volumes of clinker. This effectively blocks uptake of new technologies like low-carbon cement and concrete by the market.

It is time to turn the tide and ensure that standards become a vector which drives innovation and the rapid market uptake of already existing low-carbon solutions. Performance-based standards remove barriers to innovation, in contrast to the existing prescriptive approach. Green procurement and targeted financing instruments are also needed to further accelerate innovation.

The Alliance for Low-Carbon Cement & Concrete is ready to lead the sector towards a swift, low-cost, and viable decarbonisation pathway.

Justin Wilkes, Executive Director, ECOS - Environmental Coalition on Standards, said:

"The cement industry has a massive emissions problem – and if we keep ignoring it, we simply won’t meet our climate objectives. Technology and innovation are there, but we need political will. Standards and policies must allow low-carbon solutions to become the norm. Removing the barriers posed by standards will allow a cost-effective and fast cut of the sector’s emissions by half. The future depends on how we build it, today, which is why industry players and environmentalists have come together in the Alliance for Low-Carbon Cement & Concrete."

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European cement news