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Global Cement and Concrete Industry Announces Roadmap to Achieve Groundbreaking ‘Net Zero’ CO2 Emissions By 2050

- Includes Milestone Commitment to Cut CO2 Emissions by a Quarter By 2030

October 12, 2021

  • Major producers from across the globe (representing 80% of total production outside China) come together to affirm their commitment to net zero concrete by 2050 and agree to an ambitious intermediate goal of preventing 5 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions by 2030
  • The commitment represents a significant acceleration of the industry decarbonizing its products
  • This is a major step to eliminate the CO2 footprint of concrete – the world’s most used human-made material
  • The industry calls on policymakers, governments and multilateral organisations to play their part through public procurement reforms, appropriate carbon pricing mechanisms, legislation to support a circular economy and the development of new technologies

Forty of the world’s leading cement and concrete manufacturers today join forces to accelerate the shift to greener concrete by pledging to cut CO2 emissions by a further 25% by 2030, marking a decisive step in the race to ‘Net Zero’ concrete by 2050.

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The move by the members of the Global Cement and Concrete Association (GCCA) marks the biggest global commitment by an industry to net zero so far – bringing together companies from the Americas, Africa, Asia, including India and China, and Europe. It follows the September announcement during New York Climate Week that the GCCA has become the first global ‘heavy’ industry accelerator for the UN’s global Race to Zero. GCCA members account for 80% of the global cement industry volume outside of China, and also include several large Chinese manufacturers.

The GCCA has published a detailed roadmap which sets out the path that the industry will follow to fully decarbonize by 2050, a target aligned with the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 1.5°C. The roadmap actions between now and 2030 will prevent almost 5 billion tonnes of carbon1 from entering the atmosphere compared to a business-as-usual scenario, equivalent to the CO2 emissions of almost 15 billion passenger flights from Paris to New York2.

Concrete is the most used human-made material on the planet with 14 billion cubic meters3 produced every year for use in everything from roads to bridges, tunnels to homes, and hydropower installations to flood defenses. Concrete is an essential element of construction, with no other material equaling its resilience, strength and wide availability. Production of cement, the key ingredient in concrete, accounts for around 7% of global CO2 emissions. The new 2030 commitment by the GCCA outlines a significant acceleration in the pace of industry decarbonization.

The roadmap to get there is built around a seven-point plan that relies on ambitious yet achievable actions to reduce the amount of CO2 intensive clinker in cement, significantly reduce fossil fuel use in manufacturing, and accelerate innovation in products, process efficiency and breakthrough technologies including carbon capture.

While the GCCA has outlined an ambitious programme for its members, it also calls on governments, designers and contractors to fully play their part by assembling the right public policies and investments to support the global scale transition of the industry. These include greater development of critical technologies such as carbon capture and storage, and reforms to public works procurement policy to encourage the use of low-carbon cement and concrete products. Public policy reforms and the promotion of low carbon products can make a big difference as public infrastructure accounts for almost 60% of all global cement and concrete demand.

Thomas Guillot, GCCA Chief Executive, said: “Concrete is the world’s most used building material and provides the foundation for renewable energy transition, resilient infrastructure and new homes around the world.”

He added: “Global cooperation on decarbonizing concrete is a necessity, as countries developing their infrastructure and housing will be the biggest users of concrete in the coming decades. I am proud of the commitment made by our members today to take decisive action and accelerate industry decarbonization between now and 2030, an important milestone towards the ultimate goal of net zero concrete. I envision a world in the not too distant future where the foundation of a sustainable, zero carbon global economy will literally be built with green concrete.

“We now need governments around the world to work with us and use their huge procurement power to advocate for low carbon concrete in their infrastructure and housing needs. We require their support to change regulation that limits the use of recycled materials and impedes the transition to a low carbon and circular economy,” said Mr Guillot.

GCCA member companies operate in almost every country of the world with a global cement and concrete market worth $440 billion4 annually and supporting a wider construction sector which represents 13% of global GDP5. The Association counts companies such as CEMEX, CNBM, CRH, HeidelbergCement, Holcim and Votorantim as members. The industry last year announced its ambition to fully decarbonize by 2050 and today is detailing its roadmap to achieve this goal.

António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, commented: “I invite all cement companies to join this vital endeavour. The transition cost should not be borne only by the first movers. I call on all governments and relevant actors to align public and private finance and procurement to create strong markets for net zero-aligned industrial production and develop national sectoral roadmaps towards net zero emissions. Three quarters of the infrastructure that will exist in 2050 has yet to be built. Without credible action now, future generations will have no liveable planet to build upon. The United Nations stands ready to support you in accelerating the transformation of your industry.”

Cao Jianglin, the CEO of China National Building Material Company Ltd (CNBM), said: “This is a landmark for industry co-operation in decarbonization. As part of a global industry, it will need collaboration across our sector to achieve it. As one of the leading cement and concrete producers in China, we will play our part in decarbonizing the industry.”

Albert Manifold, GCCA President and Group Chief Executive of CRH plc said: “This Roadmap represents a clear commitment to positive change across our industry and will allow us to sustainably transition to net zero while continuing to supply society with the concrete it needs to grow and prosper.”

The GCCA Global Net Zero Roadmap can be found here. The global launch coincides with the publication of a roadmap for the USA by the Portland Cement Association (PCA) for Carbon Neutrality6.

1 The roadmap put forward by GCCA will achieve 4.9 billion tonnes reductions of carbon between now and 2030 (GCCA Roadmap calculation).

2 ICAO calculates the carbon footprint of a flight between CDG and JFK as 333.6kg [Link] making the 5 billion tonne carbon saving equivalent to 14.9 billion passenger flights.

3 Equivalent to 32 billion tons of concrete

4 Global cement and concrete market equivalent to $439.2 billion [Link]

5 McKinsey Global Institute, Reinventing Construction [Link]

6 The GCCA partners with a number of national and regional cement and concrete associations across the world, many of which have already announced or are working on country based or globally regional net zero roadmaps, including the UK, Europe, LatAm and the USA.

The GCCA Roadmap to Net Zero sets out a seven-point plan to reduce emissions by another 25% over the next decade. This consists of:

  • Increased clinker substitution: The industry will continue to substitute clinker, the main constituent of Portland cement, with supplementary materials such as fly ash (a by-product of the power sector), ground granulated blast-furnace slag (a by-product of the steel manufacturing process), calcined clays, unburnt and ground limestone or recycled concrete fines. Most of these materials have been used in the sector for a long time, already having contributed to lowering the CO2 footprint of both, cement and concrete - for example in the UK market there is 26% clinker substitution [Link]. The roadmap sets out a commitment to further increase clinker substitution and the GCCA will share best practice models from around the world to accelerate its use.

  • Fossil fuel reductions and increased use of alternative fuels: Building on its track record of establishing an almost tenfold increase in the use of alternative fuels since 1990 (GNR) [Link], the industry will reduce fossil-fuel use at every point in supply and production chains, as well as repurposing society’s waste as a smart and greener alternative to fossil fuels. To reduce dependence on conventional fuels, GCCA expects alternative fuels to cover 22% of global cement kiln energy usage by 2030.

  • Investment in technology and innovation: GCCA will spearhead innovation through its flagship global research network, Innovandi - research topics include concrete chemistries and kiln technologies. This includes 75 partners in Innovandi and a global innovation challenge matching startups with GCCA member companies to accelerate deployment of promising technologies.

  • Novel chemistries (alternatives to Portland cement clinker) and components in cement and concrete manufacturing: Innovative cements including both new clinker substitutes and new types of clinker and new concrete mix designs play an important role in the roadmap – with numerous promising approaches already in research or development phase.

  • Infrastructure development for Carbon Capture, Usage and Storage (CCUS): GCCA members will build on findings from their existing CCUS pilots in North America, India, China and Europe. The industry has committed to 10 industrial scale carbon capture plants by 2030.

  • Improved efficiency in the design and use of concrete during construction: GCCA will intensify collaboration with the construction industry, design professionals and policymakers to develop the design and procurement framework that will drive efficient use of resources and products, use of reprocessed and recycled material, re-use of elements, and extend the lifetime of whole projects.

  • Establishing a policy framework to achieve net zero concrete: To deliver net zero concrete by 2050, the global concrete and cement industry is asking for support from policymakers to:

  • Create a consistent and appropriate global system of carbon pricing to create a level playing field on carbon costs, avoid carbon leakage and ensure a managed transition to a net zero economy

  • Support low-carbon production technologies, such as carbon capture utilisation and storage, by integrating them in public financing mechanisms and providing fair recognition of all carbon capture technologies

  • Create market demand for low carbon products in construction regulations and public procurement

  • Develop the infrastructure and policies necessary for the development of green energy and waste directives that promote a circular economy

Information on concrete and cement:

  • Concrete and cement was one of the first industries to report carbon emissions and has already succeeded in lowering them by a fifth since 1990.

  • The difference between cement and concrete: Concrete is the finished material that makes up buildings, bridges and infrastructure. Cement is the ‘glue’ that binds together the aggregate material in concrete.

  • Countries that currently limit the use of concrete made with recycled content instead of ‘clinker’ include India, Turkey, as well as several states in the US.

About the GCCA

Launched in January 2018, the Global Cement and Concrete Association (GCCA) is dedicated to developing and strengthening the sector’s contribution to sustainable construction. The GCCA aims to foster innovation throughout the construction value chain in collaboration with industry associations as well as architects, engineers, and innovators. In this way, the association demonstrates how concrete solutions can meet global construction challenges and sustainable development goals while showcasing responsible industrial leadership in the manufacture and use of cement and concrete. The GCCA is headquartered in London, England. It complements and supports the work done by associations at the national and regional levels.

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