Making the most-used material in the world carbon neutral

3 September 2020

An industry body has pledged to make concrete – the most-used man-made material globally – carbon neutral by 2050.

The Global Cement and Concrete Association (GCCA) pledged in its “2050 Climate Action” to make concrete more sustainable by using renewable energy, eliminating emissions, and increasing efficiency of materials in construction.

Global cement production is expected to grow to 4.83bn tonnes by 2030, according to Statista.

Some 62.9% of tall buildings worldwide are made mostly from concrete and the material accounts for 13% of global GDP. 

In the past, the sector achieved a 19% reduction in CO2 emissions per tonne of cement, as well as a nine-fold increase in alternative fuel use since 1990, according to the GCCA.

A total of 40 leading concrete and cement firms joined together through the GCCA to further sustainability commitments. This included eliminating direct energy emissions by maximising the use of waste materials, and cutting indirect emissions through renewable electricity sources, as well as using new technologies and deployment of carbon capture at scale to reduce emissions.

Other actions include reducing clinker material in cement, lowering the amount of cement in concrete, and using concrete more efficiently in building. Concrete will be reprocessed from construction and demolition waste to produce recycled aggregates.

China is currently the largest producer of cement, making over half the global supply – around 2.2bn tonnes, according to Statista. India is the next biggest producer (320m metric tonnes), followed by Vietnam (95m) and the US (89m).

Dinah McLeod, chief executive at GCCA, said: “As we face the challenges for future generations and begin global economic recovery, concrete will be even more critical to building the sustainable world of tomorrow. That’s why we are making this commitment today, in order that our crucial industry aligns with global targets, including the Paris Agreement. 

“Concrete has a vital role to play in addressing the need for sustainable communities and prosperity. It is a key ingredient of infrastructure, homes, clean water and community resilience as our climate changes.

“Crucially, it will also help facilitate the transition to clean/green energy. We believe this journey will be challenging but are fully committed to working together with our members, partners and stakeholders across the industry and supply chain to achieve this ambition.”

Albert Manifold, president of GCCA and chief executive of building materials firm CRH plc, said: “The 2050 Climate Ambition represents our industry’s commitment to further reducing emissions and ensuring that the vital product we provide can be delivered on a carbon neutral basis by 2050.”

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