European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen said she would like “the European Green Deal to become Europe’s hallmark,” as she tasked Executive Vice President Timmermans with overseeing Europe’s goal of achieving climate neutrality by 2050. She pledged that her ambitious new Green Deal would shape the future of our children and ensure a thriving planet, despite climate change, advancing technologies and globalisation having a profound effect on the lives of European citizens and industries at large.
We at the European Cement Association (CEMBUREAU) recognise the challenges we face, not only within our own sector, but for all industries across the globe. We also understand that who acts first and embraces the necessary changes will have the most positive effect on the industry and the opportunity to shape it as it changes. As such, we are committed and determined to make a strong contribution to the European Green Deal.
The cement industry is fully committed to reducing its carbon emissions. We are proud innovators, and so our commitment to environmental efficiency is already apparent at every step of the cement manufacturing process. Reductions in our CO2 emissions can already be seen, as we strive to become the most efficient industry we can be, through the deployment of more energy-efficient kilns, the usage of waste as replacement of fossil fuels (co-processing) but also other technologies such as novel cements, clinker reduction and carbon capture and storage (CCS).
In addition, we understood that for creating a low carbon, circular, and competitive European construction sector we need to work with all the actors of the value chain; from architects to specifiers, from regulators to standards bodies, from material manufacturers to builders and users. As such, by implementing what we call our 5C Approach - clinker, cement, concrete, construction & built environment, and (re)carbonation - we have seen the move of the industry towards a carbon neutral future.
Furthermore, our sector leads the way in biodiversity with our quarries, and with the circular economy, which minimises waste at all stages of the economic cycle. This is achieved through co-pressing and concrete recyclability as we make the most out of our resources by keeping them in circulation for longer. Material neutrality remains a key pillar of CEMBUREAU, with materials being chosen based on a life cycle analysis at the building level.
It is evident that concrete plays a pivotal role as a key enabler for the Green Deal. Through thermal mass, recyclability and recarbonation, concrete delivers a decisive contribution to reducing CO2 emissions from buildings. It is also a crucial material for renewable energy infrastructure, like wind farms, hydraulic dams, and the use of thermal mass to manage renewable energy variability, whilst being essential for constructing sustainable public transport modes - predominantly rail - across Europe.
The Green Deal is a chance to create progressive change in the sector, but there are a number of elements that must be incorporated to ensure its success. A proper EU industrial policy as part of the Green Deal is vital. The newly-installed president herself understands this and admits the deal will only work if it brings all people and industries along with it and supports the most affected – in other words, energy-intensive industries. The Deal needs to produce a regulatory environment that provides a long-term legal certainty that fosters the industry’s global competitiveness.
The Green Deal should also support the decarbonisation of the construction sector, as building and construction accounts for 40% of the EU’s energy consumption and 36% of its CO2 emissions. As such, it is pivotal that policies in this area are based on the life-cycle analysis and are dedicated to minimising waste throughout production. For example, in our sector, reducing emissions is not limited solely to the cement production process, but is relevant to the whole life cycle of downstream products, in particular concrete which has great recycling and recarbonation potential. This kind of application across all heavy industry would have innumerable positive consequences for efficiency in all sectors.
We also need continued support for innovation and low carbon technologies from the Green Deal. CEMBUREAU will continue to be proactive and push for innovation to be the driving force behind the cement sector’s low carbon transition. The Green Deal needs to reinforce these actions by bolstering innovation across all industries. This is why we support and contributed to the Masterplan for Energy-Intensive Industries, published last week, setting out how we can transition to be a competitive, low carbon industry.
Finally, the Green Deal should also feature an ambitious circular economy package which incentivises co-processing as well as construction material recyclability. This will ensure that all industries function at peak efficiency as our sectors work together towards a more sustainable future.
This is a salient moment in time as protecting our environment has become, as Commission President says, “our generation’s defining task.” CEMBUREAU is ready and willing to take on the challenge ahead, contribute towards the Green Deal and achieve a more efficient industry.
Koen Coppenholle is the Chief Executive of CEMBUREAU
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