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Paris Climate Conference elicits cement leaders’ mammoth emissions reduction plan

19 LCTPi 200

The 26-page Cement Plan examines carbon emissions reduction strategies through seven chapters: Enhancing the coverage of the sector’s CO2and energy database; Electric and thermal efficiency; Use of alternative fuels and waste; Reducing the clinker content in cement; Low carbon cement clinkers; Addressing the avoided emissions challenge; and, Capture, use and store carbon at scale. The document can be downloaded from the LCTPi section at the World Business Council for Sustainable home page, www.wbcsd.org.

Backed by 16 major producers—nine with significant North American market stakes—the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) Low Carbon Technology Partnerships initiative (LCTPi) outlined a Cement Action Plan aimed at reducing worldwide industry carbon emissions 20-25 percent by 2030. The announcement was made last month in Paris during the United Nations Climate Conference. Also known as (Conference of Parties) COP21, the event was staged with the aim of securing commitments from nearly 200 countries, whereby carbon dioxide emissions are cut to levels at which global temperatures climb no more than 2°C by 2100—a benchmark below the levels embodied in conference participants’ pledged plans.

Beyond process improvements in portland cement production, whose high carbon emissions are generated through raw materials calcining (60 percent) and clinker phase pyroprocessing (40 percent), streamlined CO2 emissions will be realized through development of new cements and design of concretes with lower clinker content, thereby reducing the volume of material with highest embodied energy. The Cement Plan also references emissions avoidance by impressing the life cycle attributes of cement and concrete products in local markets’ building and infrastructure value chains.

“Cement production accounts for approximately 5 percent of worldwide man-made CO2 emissions. This collective effort by the cement industry to mitigate its emissions is highly encouraging and showcases the importance of leadership and collaboration in making the transition to a low carbon economy,” said WBCSD President Peter Bakker. “These business measures can only achieve their full potential if backed by the right policy frameworks and financial incentives.”

INDUSTRY SPEAKS

“Since 2001 the cement sector has demonstrated its ability to make progress on mitigating its impact on climate change,” observed LafargeHolcim Ltd. CEO Eric Olsen. “The LCTPi provides additional opportunities to accelerate these efforts and widen engagement through actions by all members of the industry, together with other stakeholders, to overcome barriers and achieve performance matching the best in the sector.”

“There is a lot of potential for emission reductions, but in order to unlock it we need the whole private sector to be involved, and to work with governments and other stakeholders in order to remove regulatory and other barriers,” added Cemex CEO Fernando González.

“It is simply not possible to achieve robust and sustainable growth without taking consistent action to promote sustainable development,” noted Votorantim Cimentos CEO Walter Dissinger. “COP 21 represents the beginning of a new phase in which it will be necessary to combine the efforts of the sector and other key stakeholders to ensure that low-carbon technology initiatives are implemented.”

Other multinational producers supporting the LCTPi Cement Plan are Argos, CRH, GCC, HeidelbergCement, Italcementi, and Titan; all are members of the WBCSD Cement Sustainability Initiative (CSI). Joining Cement among LCTPi focus areas are Carbon Capture and Storage; Chemicals; Climate Smart Agriculture; Energy Efficiency in Building; Forests, Low Carbon Freight and Transport Fuels; and, Renewables.

“Building on 15 years of collaboration, the CSI and its members are working towards scaling up their efforts and leveraging the implementation of identified business solutions to a broad majority of cement companies worldwide. Engaging the whole cement sector would be delivering an additional reduction of close to 1 gigaton of CO2 by 2030, which is about the same amount of total CO2 emissions of Germany in 2013,” CSI Managing Director Philippe Fonta observed upon the Cement Plan announcement.

LEADER FOR A WORLD STAGE

Consistent with a “New Leader, New World” motto, LafargeHolcim appears to have asserted itself at the Paris Climate Conference more than any peer operator. “The global climate challenge requires a collaborative response that goes beyond our ambitious efforts in own operations,” the producer noted in a statement on COP21. “Our approach is to generate, monitor and report GHS savings right through to the use of our solutions through their life cycle. We are committed to reducing CO2 emissions across the entire construction value chain.”

Leading into the event, LafargeHolcim cited these expectations for COP21:

  • An ambitious agreement that reflects the long-term goal to limit global warming to the <2°C benchmark and sets the right conditions to achieve it;
  • Comparable and coordinated efforts to create a level-playing field and a competitive environment; and,
  • A progressively coordinated use of carbon pricing mechanisms.

Company officials approached the Paris gathering with two commitments through 2030: a) remaining the most carbon efficient international cement producer, such that CO2 emissions per tonne will drop 40 percent against 1990 levels; and, b) contributing to a sustainable construction value chain, evidenced by the annual avoidance of 10 million tonnes of CO2 during the lifecycle of sold products.