Adam Auer, President and CEO of the Cement Association of Canada talks about the industry’s Concrete Zero Action Plan.
1. Why did the cement and concrete industry decide to release an action plan to net-zero by 2050?
Concrete is the most used building material in the world. Our homes and communities need concrete, as do many sectors of the economy. It’s also the second largest industrial carbon emitter. The cement and concrete industry represents about 7 per cent of CO2 emissions globally, and almost 1.5 per cent in Canada. As a large emitter, we are committed to leadership in reducing emissions and offering solutions to climate change. A net-zero world will, literally and figuratively, rest on concrete.
2. What levers will be most crucial in reaching net-zero by 2050?
There is no one magic solution that will get us to net-zero. It is going to take many actions. Our Action Plan focuses on what can be done today using existing technologies and through collaboration with government, the construction sector and others on, for example, lower carbon and materially efficient design and construction. Research and development will continue to play an important role in accelerating new technologies and approaches, such as carbon utilization technologies.
3. What actions is the industry taking to reduce emissions before 2050?
Our industry is focusing on five main actions or areas to reduce carbon emissions to reach net-zero by 2050. We refer to the five areas as the 5 C’s: Clinker, Cement, Concrete, Construction, and Carbon Uptake. For each C we are taking a range of actions to reduce their respective emissions. As an example, to reduce clinker emissions we are replacing fossil fuels used as a fuel source in manufacturing with lower carbon fuels, using less clinker, and investing in carbon capture. For example, this past April, Heidelberg Materials North America partnered with the Government of Canada on a carbon capture and storage project that will be North America’s first full-scale capture facility at a cement plant and will produce the world’s first net-zero cement without the purchase of offsets.
4. How is the cement and concrete industry coordinating its efforts with the architecture, engineering, and construction industries?
This is an incredibly important question, as we cannot reach net-zero alone. We need the users of concrete – i.e. specifiers, architects, developers, engineers, etc. – to work with us on everything from optimized low-carbon concrete mixes to new approaches to low-carbon, materially efficient, and climate resilient design and construction as well as to reduce waste through circular economy practices.
5. What work has been done to ensure the data in the action plan is accurate and achievable?
All cement facilities in Canada meet consistent national regulatory reporting requirements and all grey cement producers also voluntarily report production and emissions data to the Global Cement and Concrete Association ‘Getting the Numbers Right’ database. At the same time, the availability of data across the cement, concrete and construction value chain has many constraints, which we will work to improve over time. Our Action Plan shares the best data and modelling available to us and shows our commitment to transparency.
Our modelling was developed thoughtfully with input from our members and allies across the cement and concrete value chain and represents a consensus on the solutions available to drive our sector toward net-zero. It also represents a shared commitment to continue our internal collaboration to improve continuously the quality and scope of our data to further refine our modelling and support continuous improvement in transparency and reporting.
As a demonstration of this commitment, Canada’s concrete industry is the first (and only) construction material to have published regionally specific Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) as a way of quantifying and confirming industry improvements in carbon reduction.