The cement and concrete sector, together responsible for 8% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, can radically cut its climate impact with only “moderate” investment, according to a study released this week by Swiss scientists.
Emissions can be cut by 80% by 2050 in the concrete construction sector, against a 1990 baseline, without major changes in standards or massive investment in technologies, according to scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETHZ), Zürich, and the Ecole Polytechnique de Lausanne (EPFL), Lausanne.
And carbon neutrality – a goal in line with a 1.5C Paris target – is also “technologically feasible” the scientists concluded, although this will be challenging, expensive, and require carbon capture technology, the scientists admitted.
Cement and concrete make up more than half of all the materials used in the world, thanks to their dominant use across all forms of construction, and demand is rising fast in developing countries with rapidly increasing urban populations.
But emissions can be brought to heel, the scientists stressed. The 80 per cent cut in emissions can be achieved without resorting to carbon capture, according to the report, which was compiled with the support of the European Climate Foundation.
Instead manufacturers would have to target emissions throughout the value chain, such as investing in newer, more efficient technology, minimising waste, introducing downstream labels to drive demand for greener materials , and designing structures to minimise material use.
Emissions can be cut to zero if CCUS is added to the mix, the report added, but that would require an extra additional investment of €12bn per plant. “Net zero emissions would technically be possible, but only with extremely large investments,” it concluded.