Low hanging fruit for reducing huge volumes of carbon emissions is waiting to be plucked in China. Take the cement industry. By halting overproduction of cement in a slowing economy and applying decades-old knowledge to more energy efficient and less carbon emitting production processes, the country could make a significant dent in its CO2 reduc-tion goals.
Pressure is mounting on China to act. More and more countries are pledging to release no more carbon dioxide than they produce by 2050, or earlier. To reach so-called “net zero” emissions, all heavy industry has to make significant investment in changing production processes and none more so than the cement industry. Of the 60% contribution by China’s manufacturing industry to the record 13.7 billion tonnes of CO2 emitted by the country in 2018, a quarter of global emissions, fully 1.3 billion tonnes came from cement production, around 10% of national emissions. The 2.13 billion tonnes of cement produced by China in 2018 represented 52% of global cement output in that year.
Yet China has no use for such large volumes of cement. The country has been struggling for years with a serious overcapacity problem. In 2013, the government issued formal guidance including a “resolute curb on the blind expansion of production capacity”, ban-ning production that would increase net cement capacity and ordering an end to sub-standard cements. Together these measures were supposed to stop the manufacture of 340 million tonnes of cement a year.
The cement sector has accepted the size of its carbon footprint, but it will take greater pressure from regulators and NGOs to force the industry to totally change its ways
Significant investment is needed at the development and commercialisation stages
Heavy industries are slowly starting to wake up to the reality of the energy transition, but full decarbonisation of the steel, cement and petrochemicals sectors is a significant challenge that will require new processes and significant amounts of clean energy
Questions around definitions, targets and the funding of green hydrogen in Europe still need answering