The cement industry is committed to reducing its carbon footprint, which is why it has published a new roadmap to ensure it stays on track, says Dr Pal Chana, executive director of Cement at the Mineral Products Association.
Why are you publishing this roadmap now?
Man-made climate change is a serious threat to the future of our planet and CO2 is a major contributor to it and industries that emit a high level of CO2 as part of their production process, need to take their carbon footprint very seriously and seek to minimise it wherever possible. As a highly energy intensive industry, the cement industry emits high levels of CO2 as part of its production process.
On average, the UK cement industry emits about 8 million tonnes of CO2 a year which is less than 1.5% of the UK’s total CO2 emissions.
However as an industry, we know that there are things we and others can do to bring this figure down even further, but it won’t happen overnight.
In fact, to get to where we want to be will take a long time, but if we are clear on how to get there then we are on the right track to make a difference. This UK national cement industry roadmap is the first in the world for its sector and we are very proud to be setting the pace.
What is your target and how will you get there?
In fact, we have two targets. Our most ambitious target is 81% less CO2 than the industry was emitting in 1990 – the Kyoto Protocol baseline year and the same year that the government uses for its own CO2 reduction plans.
Our second target is 62% less over the same period. To get to 81% less C02 we will need to see carbon capture and storage in the cement industry not only developed, but deployed in an economically viable way.
Carbon capture and storage technology in the cement industry is in its infancy and research and development is still at the drawing board stage. This is not something the UK cement industry can do on its own and we have to rely on global cooperation and investment to make this work.
At the same time others, including governments, have to get the policy framework right as well as the physical infrastructure in place to support deployment. Although this is progressing for the power sector, there are many hurdles to be overcome and we have yet to see a full scale demonstration project in the UK.
By doing the things that are in our control now, we believe we can get to -62%.
What have you done so far?
A lot! Since 1990 we have reduced our CO2 footprint by 55%. So you may say that a -62% target is not very ambitious. In fact it is because our cement companies have worked relentlessly to bring down their energy usage to the point where we are now up against the scientific barriers as to what more can be done on that front. That is why carbon capture and storage is so important to really making a difference.
Why is cement so important?
Cement is a key ingredient in the most used man made material in the word – concrete. Mixed with water and aggregates, cement is literally the glue that sticks stones together.
Most people never notice it as they go about their daily lives, but if they looked a bit closer it is everywhere: in our homes, schools, hospitals, the places we work, roads, railways, bridges and much more. It is absolutely essential for economic and social development. It is essential now and it will be essential in the future.
Our low carbon economy will be built on cement and concrete: new clean coal power stations; new nuclear power stations; concrete gravity bases for off-shore wind farms; new national infrastructure such as roads, high speed rail and airports; new homes which the country so desperately needs. That is why we need a healthy and economically sustainable domestic cement industry.