GCCA highlights clean energy transition and biodiversity

GCCA highlights clean energy transition and biodiversity
08 October 2020

At the second day of the Global Cement and Concrete Association's (GCCA) annual conference, cement producers were advised to be optimistic about the challenge of creating clean energy transitions, while also being asked to be more active in supporting biodiversity and pursue a more proactive decarbonisation drive.

Keynote speaker, Dr Timur Gül, head of the Energy Technology Policy Division at the IEA, said the cement industry be optimistic in implementing the clean energy transition. Cement producers need to invest into their existing assets when the best window of opportunity presents itself. 

However, he also stressed that "what we are seeing is a disconnect between the current state of play of many critical clean energy technologies and the level of ambitions that comes through many of the net zero commitment pledges."

"No sector can ignore the need for decarbonisation," explained Dr Gül. Existing cement kilns will release 16Gt of CO2 emissions in the next two decades before being decommissioned or replaced, according to IEA estimates. "Efficiency improvements and fuel switches can reduce these emissions, while carbon capture and storage retrofits will be critical parts of the toolbox," he added.

Dr Gül said the other difficulty in reaching net zero emissions for industries is that it takes a long time for research and development to make innovation a reality, and there is no time to waste. "The IEA estimates that up to half of the global CO2 emission reductions required for reaching net zero emissions would need to come from technology that is not yet commercially available today," he highlighted. In some sectors, this can even be higher than half in the hard-to-abate industries.

Biodiversity and the cement sector
Meanwhile, Gerard Bros, director of IUCN Global Business and Biodiversity Programme, encouraged cement producers to focus not only on climate change but on using nature to deliver on its CO2 reduction commitments. He stressed the cement sector needs to reach out for social partnerships and look at other types of innovation in working with nature, because a significant share of carbon capture happens naturally. While climate change is much talked about, Mr Bros declared that the world is  also facing a biodiversity crisis and that more than 1m species are on the brink of extinction. He advised cement companies to get involved in events like the Convention on Biological Diversity, which has run in parallel with climate events that are more in the public domain, such as the Paris Aggreement.

Biodiversity and climate change are not unrelated and removing carbon from the atmosphere is important for biodiversity. "Nature-based solutions are gaining traction," explained Gerard Bros. "They are a way of talking to businesses to invest in nature." He gave the example of the Philippines where coral reefs had disappeared, but where concrete structures are now constructed in the ocean floor for coral reefs to repopulate their former growing sites. "Many of these natural carbon systems are also much cheaper than investing in the latest technology to reduce carbon," he ventured. 

The need to move forward and to look at how best to meet the demands from stakeholders, climate change targets and biodiversity was grasped by Dr Dominik Von Achten, CEO HeidelbergCement, who commented that "I feel a need to have a proactive approach to this topic and not try to defend what happened in the past, but say rather say this is a new time and a new generation and that we want to move ahead and pick up our responsibilities."

Published under Cement News