World Environment Day: a time to reflect on a net zero future

On World Environment Day, Chris Leese looks at our net zero direction of travel. 

World Environment Day is an opportunity for us all to consider our impact on the planet and the steps we are taking to taking as individuals, communities and industries to decarbonise and enhance biodiversity.  

I wanted to provide an update on our emerging concrete and cement net zero roadmap which will detail our industry’s solutions to eliminate emissions from production.

To be clear, the concrete and cement industry will play its part in the UK’s transition to a net zero economy, switching energy sources, product innovation, changing production processes, modernising transportation and solving built environment challenges. 

The plan will explore the potential of a range of technology levers including fuel switching, low-carbon cements and Waste Bioenergy Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Storage (WBECCUS) to eradicate production emissions, and use the natural CO₂ absorbing properties of concrete, known as carbonation, to go beyond zero to net negative emissions.

Importantly our roadmap will not rely on offsetting, so the significant tree-planting and habitat our industry has delivered over the last 50 years as part of its business as usual operations represents a biodiversity ‘net gain’ to complement its emissions reduction.

The roadmap aims to avoid any offshoring of production and carbon leakage. We believe that the UK’s carbon budgets could, but should not, be partially met by importing goods rather than manufacturing in the UK.

Our roadmap will support low carbon domestic production and help to retain economic value and jobs in the UK while meeting the highest environmental standards and delivering a sustainable built environment. In a post COVID-19 world this is very important to support green economic recovery.

The concrete and cement industry is committed to achieving net zero as soon as technically and economically possible but is not pretending that it will be either quick or easy.

Achieving this target will require significant collaborative effort with supportive Government policy measures to go beyond the actions that have already delivered a 51% CO₂ reduction in UK cement production emissions since 1990.

Chris Leese, UK Concrete Director

Photo by Gabriel Manlake