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Climate plan aims to make concrete carbon neutral by 2050: GCCA


September 11, 2020
By Rock to Road Staff

Forty of the world’s leading cement and concrete companies have unveiled a joint industry ‘2050 Climate Ambition.’

The goal is to drive down the carbon dioxide footprint of the “world’s most used man-made product, with an aspiration to deliver society with carbon neutral concrete by 2050,” the Global Cement and Concrete Association (GCCA) said in a press release.

This is the first time the industry has come together to state a collective ambition for a carbon neutral future, the GCCA said.

“The statement identifies the essential levers that will be required to achieve carbon neutral concrete, including: reducing and eliminating energy-related emissions, reducing process emissions through new technologies and deployment of carbon capture, more efficient use of concrete, reuse and recycling of concrete and buildings, and harnessing concrete’s ability to absorb and store carbon from the atmosphere,” it said.

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“As we face the challenges for future generations and begin global economic recovery, concrete will be even more critical to building the sustainable world of tomorrow,” said Dinah McLeod, GCCA chief executive.

“That’s why we are making this commitment today, in order that our crucial industry aligns with global targets, including the Paris Agreement.”

On a path to reduction

The concrete and cement industry is a key part of the construction sector – which accounts for 13 per cent of global GDP – with a track record of taking climate action, GCCA said. This has included delivering a 19 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions per tonne of cementitious material along with a ninefold increase in alternative fuel use since 1990.

Albert Manifold, GCCA President and Chief Executive of CRH plc, said: “The 2050 Climate Ambition represents our industry’s commitment to further reducing emissions and ensuring that the vital product we provide can be delivered on a carbon neutral basis by 2050. There is a significant challenge involved in doing so and achieving alignment across our industry on a sustainable way forward is an important first step. We cannot, however, succeed alone and in launching our ambition statement we are also highlighting the need for our industry to work collaboratively with other stakeholders in support of our ambition for a more sustainable future.”

2050 roadmap

GCCA member companies are currently developing a 2050 concrete roadmap that will set out the detailed actions and milestones that the industry will enact in order to achieve its ambition. This will include working across the built environment value chain to deliver the vision of carbon neutral concrete in a circular economy, whole life context. The 2050 concrete roadmap is due to be published in the second half of 2021.

Anthony Hobley, Executive Director of the World Economic Forum’s Mission Possible Platform, which is working across different industries to help achieve a carbon neutral future, said: “Ambitious business and industry action led leadership is vital to achieving the climate targets that the world needs to survive and thrive. We know that concrete is so important to many of the challenges humanity faces, but we also know it needs to be delivered more sustainably. We are delighted by the important step of articulating the ambition for carbon neutral concrete and look forward to working with this industry collaboration to deliver the detailed pathway and tools necessary towards achieving a net-zero economy.”

COVID-19 recovery

As the world deals with the impact of the COVID-19 health crisis, the construction sector is playing an important role in economic recovery. The GCCA’s climate ambition statement demonstrates its commitment to helping build a more sustainable and safer future – recognizing that the world needs cleaner and greener infrastructure, it said.

Getting to zero

The GCCA 2050 climate ambition outlines how in the coming years the industry can achieve carbon neutral concrete by:

  • eliminating  energy-related emissions and maximizing the co-processing of waste from other industries,
  • reducing and eliminating indirect energy emissions through renewable electricity sources
  • reducing process emissions through new technologies and deployment of carbon capture at scale
  • reducing the content of both clinker in cement and cement in concrete, as well as more efficient use of concrete in buildings and infrastructure
  • reprocessing concrete from construction and demolition waste to produce recycled aggregates to be used in concrete manufacturing; and
  • quantifying and enhancing the level of CO2 uptake of concrete through recarbonation and enhanced recarbonation in a circular economy, whole life context.