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Coming to the Crossroads

Published by
World Cement,


Michael McSweeney, President and CEO of the Cement Association of Canada, comments on the challenge that climate change poses to the construction sector:

In ways that I would not have predicted some 10 years ago when I became President and CEO of the Cement Association of Canada, climate change has become a definitive driver of my day-to-day work.

This is not surprising given that concrete is the most widely used material on the planet and that the cement needed to make concrete is a source of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Naturally, we have been deeply involved in many of the industrial policy shifts enacted in Canada to address climate change, including the politically contentious issue of carbon pricing. I am proud to say that the cement and concrete industry has been front and centre, working with government to design climate policies that drive investment in emissions reductions while aiming to enhance Canadian industrial competitiveness.

But the challenge for us is broader and deeper than policy and regulations. We see the entire construction industry at a critical crossroads. Between now and 2050, climate resilience and net-zero carbon or carbon-neutrality must become basic principles in the way we design and construct our buildings and infrastructure. There is no silver bullet to fighting climate change, everyone has a part of play – from material producers, to architects, engineers, developers and individuals.

In the building materials sector, we cannot underestimate what this transition will entail. For steel producers, it could mean a wholesale conversion to electrification and recycled content. For wood, it likely means a full retreat from logging in intact boreal and coastal rainforest and more rigorous and transparent accounting of biogenic carbon flows to help define carbon optimised forestry practices.

For cement and concrete, it surely means moving away from fossil energy, deep commitments to material efficiency and circular economy solutions, as well as an urgent embrace of carbon capture, utilisation and storage technologies.

I am happy to share our industry’s progress and some of the exciting innovations that promise a future of carbon-neutral, and perhaps even carbon-negative concrete. But what I really want to talk about today is the role, responsibility and self-interest of construction professionals to pull all of us forward.

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