What is a successful COP28 for the cement sector?

What is a successful COP28 for the cement sector?
01 December 2023

Yesterday saw the opening of the United Nations COP28 (Conference of the Parties 30 Nov-12 Dec 2023) in Dubai, UAE. CemNet looks ahead at how these key climate talks could shape decarbonisation agreements going forward and what this will mean for the cement industry.

The United Nations' (UN) COP28 aims to bring hope to a world that is expected to have reported the hottest year since records began in 1880 by the end of 2023. Global temperatures rose by 1.07˚C from 2010-19 and rose even faster from 2013-22 by an average of 1.14˚C, giving climate change an acceleration rate of over 0.2˚C per decade, according to a new study authored by Leeds University along with researchers from around the world.

The first global stocktake
COP28 will produce the first global stocktake (GST), the main mechanism through which progress under the Paris Agreement is assessed. But be prepared for bad news. On 8 September 2023, a synthesis report on key messages and recommendations from the second phase of the GST indicated that the world is off-track on its commitment to keep below the 1.5˚C temperature rise by the end of the century. "I urge the world to carefully study the global stocktake synthesis report. It is a report card of our collective climate action. And not a good one," said Simon Steill, UN Climate Change Executive Secretary. "COP28 is our chance to make a dramatic course correction. Let’s seize that chance."

Cement industry progress report
The cement sector has many decarbonisation roadmaps now in place and another much eagerly awaited report will be presented by the Global Cement and Concrete Association (GCCA) in Dubai on 2 December with its 'Industry Progress Report 2023'. The report aims to highlight the progress so far and identify existing challenges to overcome that can expedite the transition. The GCCA also announces that COP28 will see the launch of the 'Cement Breakthrough' and 'Industrial Transition Accelerator' initiatives, which are designed to galvanise more global action on the decarbonisation of the cement sector. 

Can an agreement be made for fossil fuels to be phased out?
A big focus of the talks will be on the need for a complete phase-out of fossil fuels. COP26 began efforts to discuss a phase-out of any specific type of fossil fuel. This only resulted in parties agreeing to accelerate 'efforts towards the phasedown of unabated coal power and phase-out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies'. While the Ukraine-Russian war has led to coal price spikes, the cement sector is still dependent on coal use, especially in emerging countries, so any movement in phasing out coal will have a huge effect on cement producers who may be forced to raise their prices and modify their factories to enable fossil-free plants. Coal, oil, gas and petcoke remain go-to fuels – while the industry still has a long way to go to increase its overall usage of alternative fuels and renewable energy.

Cement overcapacity needs to be addressed
While the cement sector has started to take steps to prevent carbon leakage, at least in Europe with the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM), cement overcapacity remains a stigma in many countries and further action would reduce energy consumption and wastage. In Egypt progress has already been seen with the successful implementation of the quota system on cement production, since 2021, resulting in production cuts, a reduction in CO2 emissions and more stable cement pricing. This could be the future for several countries with overcapacity. Rebalancing cement demand with supply will force the closure of less efficient plants.

A positive COP28
According to the Carbon Trust, a successful COP28 will include agreements on the following five key areas. Firstly, a resubmission of nationally-determined contributions to align with 2030 and 2035 targets and limiting temperature rises to 1.5˚C above pre-industrial temperatures. Secondly, as mentioned, the phasing out of all fossil fuels. The third ingredient is a tripling of global renewable energy capacity by 2030. Fourthly, an agreed operating model for the loss and damage fund to compensate vulnerable nations adversely impacted by climate change. Finally, evidence of delivery from developed countries on the US$100bn climate finance commitment and progress towards agreeing a new collective quantified goal in climate finance.

Of course, COP28 also represents an opportunity for the global cement sector to highlight the breakthrough technologies and innovations that it is embracing, such as carbon capture, electric kilns, low-carbon cement, digitalisation and renewable energy, to name a few.

Whatever agreements are made, the cement sector must be recorded as making progress on its net-zero ambitions and delivering on its commitments to decarbonise. In this respect, the production of the world’s first carbon captured net-zero cement by Heidelberg Materials at its Brevik plant in Norway, announced this week, demonstrates that the industry has the capability and resolve to deliver on its net zero ambitions.

Published under Cement News