The Cement Industry, One of the World’s Largest CO2 Emitters, Pledges to Cut Greenhouse Gases

The National Cement Share Company factory in Ethiopia.

The National Cement Share Company factory in Ethiopia. DFID - UK Department for International Development

Cement is the second most-consumed resource in the world, with more than 4 billion tons of the material produced globally every year. As a result, the industry generates approximately 8 percent of global CO2 emissions, not far behind the agriculture industry, which accounts for 12 percent. Ranked with CO2 emissions from individual countries, the cement industry would be the third-highest emitter after China and the United States.

Now, the Global Cement and Concrete Association (GCCA), which represents about 30 percent of total cement production capacity worldwide, is trying to change that. The London-based organization, founded in January 2018 to “drive advances in sustainable construction while demonstrating industrial sustainable leadership in cement and concrete manufacturing,” announced the industry’s first “Sustainability Guidelines” following the conclusion of the COP24 climate conference in Poland this December.

The six guidelines provide a clear framework for GCCA’s members to monitor and report on emissions levels, water management, health and safety, and other factors related to their cement manufacturing performance. The association will also verify and publicly report the data provided by its member companies in order to better ensure compliance with the guidelines.

“There is a huge role for the private sector and major industries, which includes cement and concrete, in demonstrating leadership on the issue of climate change,” GCCA Cement Director Claude Lorea said in a press statement.

GCCA’s members have already started taking steps to address the sustainability challenges of cement. Germany-based HeidelbergCement, one of GCCA’s founding members, is in the process of constructing the world’s first carbon-free cement plant in Norway. The ambitious Norcem Brevik project plans to use a combination of waste-based alternative fuels and carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology to achieve zero-emission status. It is expected to be operational by 2024.

Elisheva Mittelman