CEMBUREAU discusses Europe's future for cement

CEMBUREAU discusses Europe's future for cement
13 October 2021

CEMBUREAU held its 'Cementing Europe's future: Action through policy' webinar on 12 October 2021. Two panel discussions looked at whether the cement industry was Fit for 55 per cent carbon reduction by 2030 and the carbon-neutral built environment and the role of concrete with in it. 

Isidoro Miranda, CEO of Holcim Spain and CEMBUREAU president, opened the meeting stating that the "cement sector was on the move!" He announced that the Green Deal was a starting point race towards 2050 decarbonisation and that the cement industry wants to be a positive actor. 

Mette Quinn, who heads up the B2 Unit of DG CLIMA, the EU's directorate general for climate action, outlined that the overall objective of climate law must be to decarbonise by 2050 and to reduce CO2 emissions by 55 per cent by 2030 to achieve this. While the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU-ETS) has been an important tool, maritime transport has to be accounted for as do new targets for emissions from renewable energy. Ms Quinn explained that transition pathways are now required and carbon protection has to be eased. "The carbon border adjustment will provide a level playing ground locally and for imports," she clarified.

The pilot phase will operate from 2023 and implementation will happen in 2026, after three years of data collection. The EU Commission is also intent on avoiding double compensation, so free allocation allowances will be phased out to prevent double carbon leakage protection.

The EU envisages the CBAM as a component of the EU ETS and its main purpose is to prevent carbon leakage by creating a level playing field for EU producers in sectors covered by the EU ETS. The CBAM is in fact a replacement of the free ETS allowances. The cement industry welcomes the 'Fit for 55 package' and the introduction of the Carbon Border Mechanism Adjustment System (CBAM). 

However, Jon Morrish, HeidelbergCement CEO Western and Southern Europe, said "The key point from the package is that CBAM works and is water-tight. CBAM needs to be designed and implemented well as our neighbours are watching this." Moreover, he suggested the implementation period for CBAM was too slow and should be moved forward. 

Funding for innovation
Funding will be a crucial aspect of bringing new innovation for carbon capture utilisation and storage (CCUS) technologies. Mette Quinn reported that announcements can be expected on this soon with a second call of EUR1.3-1.5bn this coming spring for innovation such as carbon capture and storage (CCS) and CCUS projects.

Keynote speech
Gerassimos Thomas, director general of the EU's DG Taxation & Customs Union, ended CEMBUREAU's opening panel session with a keynote speech that stressed cement is an important product for EU energy transition goals up to 2030. "In our view carbon leakage will become a bigger problem in the future, precisely because of the acceleration that we have for demand for the products and the speed by which the sector will need react and deliver," said Mr Thomas. He was keen to stress that free allocations have to be phased out, because we cannot have double leakage protection.

Second panel discussion
CEMBUREAU's second panel discussion for its webinar concentrated on the carbon-neutral built environment and the role of concrete. Essentially, the panellists discussed how best to build tomorrow. The premiss for the discussion was led by Florika Fink-Hooijer, director general of the EU's DG Environment, who admitted while decarbonisation was the big challenge, the cement industry also needed to address how pollution, and extraction of essential resources like water and minerals can become less of a drain on natural resources.

An area of concern in the construction sector is having the skills necessary to build on innovation. "Whatever we do in the Green Deal, we must improve competitiveness and that is close to training of workforce and skills," said Pernille Weiss, MEP. "The efforts and funding we have for green transition goes hand-in-hand with digital transformation.”

Meanwhile, Onne van der Weijde, CRH president Europe & Asia, stressed that the whole lifecycle of cement and concrete should be recognised in the way calculations are made as a carbon sink. Material neutrality he also advanced should be viewed over the whole product lifecycle.

Published under Cement News