The UK concrete and cement industry has launched a roadmap to become net negative by 2050, removing more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than it emits each year.
UK Concrete, part of the Mineral Products Association (MPA), has identified that net zero can be met through decarbonised electricity and transport networks, fuel switching, greater use of low-carbon cements and concretes as well as carbon capture, usage or storage (CCUS) technology for cement manufacture.
The Roadmap to Beyond Net Zero calculates the potential of each technology and the carbon savings which can be achieved. CCUS technology is vital to delivering net zero manufacturing and, according to the roadmap, will deliver 61% of the required carbon savings.
A net negative industry by 2050 will be achieved, says the report, by using the natural, in-use properties of concrete which include its ability to absorb carbon dioxide during use, and the benefit of using the thermal properties of concrete in buildings and structures to reduce operational emissions.
The concrete and cement industry claims it has already taken considerable early joint action and due to investment in fuel switching, changes in product formulation, and energy efficiency including plant rationalisation, its direct and indirect emissions are 53% lower than 1990.
The MPA is currently building on this progress by undertaking demonstrations of hydrogen and plasma technology, which are being partly funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and will demonstrate the potential of these technologies to reduce carbon emissions through fuel switching from fossil fuels in cement and lime production.
The industry is now calling on government for a robust financial support model including for the capital and operational costs of carbon capture by no later than 2021. This, they say, would ensure the technology can be developed, deployed and become an investable proposition in the 2030s.
Nigel Jackson, MPA chief executive, said: “Concrete, and the aggregates and cement used to make it, are essential materials for our economy and our way of life. New homes, schools, hospitals, workplaces, roads and railways, as well as the infrastructure that provides us with clean water, sanitation and energy all depend on these materials.
“We have already made significant progress to reduce carbon emissions but are under no illusion about the scale of the net zero challenge. Achieving this will require the wholesale decarbonisation of all aspects of concrete and cement production, supply and use. The concrete and cement industry as one sector alone cannot deliver net zero and we will only be able to go beyond net zero with concerted support from government, as well as with significant changes across the wider construction, energy and transportation sectors.
“Critically, our roadmap will be delivered without offsetting emissions or offshoring production facilities. We believe that net zero should be achieved by reducing emissions from the construction materials manufactured in the UK, rather than by ‘carbon leakage’ where UK production is replaced with imports that simply moves the emissions responsibility abroad. The aim should be to retain jobs and economic value in the UK whilst ensuring that the UK takes responsibility for the emissions it creates.”
Chris Stark, chief executive of the Committee on Climate Change, said: “Through the UK concrete and cement industry net zero roadmap, the Mineral Products Association is setting a world-leading industry ambition to reach net zero emissions. Decarbonising emissions from concrete and cement is one of the key challenges for getting to net zero with knock-on effects for helping to reduce emissions from the built environment. Net zero is a fundamental goal, requiring bold leadership from government and from commerce – I highly commend this initiative.”