Making concrete change


As a key input into concrete, the most widely used construction material in the world, cement is a major contributor to climate change. The chemical and thermal combustion processes involved in the production of cement are a large source of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Each year, more than 4 billion tonnes of cement are produced, accounting for around 8 per cent of global CO2 emissions. To bring the cement sector in line with the Paris Agreement on climate change, its annual emissions will need to fall by at least 16 per cent by 2030.1 Steeper reductions will be required if assumptions about the contribution from carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies prove to be optimistic. Meanwhile, investors are increasingly expecting companies to report clear information on their exposure to climate risk. The trends all point to regulatory, financial and societal pressures on the horizon, especially for cement companies without a detailed plan for a Paris-compliant pathway. Yet at the same time, cement is expected to play a vital role in the expansion of the built environment, especially in emerging economies. On a ‘business as usual’ trajectory, global cement production is set to increase to over 5 billion tonnes a year over the next 30 years.2 Rapid urbanization and economic development in regions such as Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa will increase demand for new buildings, and thus for concrete and cement. With as many as 3 billion people potentially living in slums by 2050, new rapidly deployable housing solutions are urgently needed.

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