Supporting net-zero concrete globally

Environment | October 26, 2021

By: Cement Association of Canada

Earlier this month, the Global Cement and Concrete Association launched their roadmap to net-zero concrete. The Cement Association of Canada and its members are incredibly proud to be a part of the collective commitment of the world’s leading cement and concrete companies to tackle the climate crisis and contribute to building the low-carbon and climate resilient world of tomorrow.

 The roadmap outlines the pathway to fully decarbonize the cement and concrete industry and achieve net-zero concrete by 2050. It represents a decisive moment for our industry and the world, demonstrating that with the collaboration of decision makers in government and across the construction value chain, a zero-carbon pathway for the world’s most important building material is both achievable and, in fact, essential.

Cement and Concrete as Essential Materials

 Concrete is an indispensable building material. So much so that twice as much concrete is used each year than all other building materials combined – only water is used in greater volume!  From our homes, schools, and hospitals, to our highways, bridges, and transit ways, concrete is an essential part of our daily lives. Concrete will also play a critical role in adapting our communities to increases in extreme weather that we are already experiencing. It is therefore essential to decarbonize cement and concrete to achieve success in the fight against climate change.

Our Commitment to Innovation

Globally, cement and concrete are responsible for 7% of CO2 emissions and in Canada, cement production accounts for about 1.5% of CO2 emissions.

That’s why we’re committing to climate action. Last May, we announced a partnership with Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) in Canada to advance global leadership in low-carbon concrete production. Building on the global model, Canada’s own roadmap will help position the Canadian cement and concrete sector to lead the way to net-zero carbon concrete by 2050.

This is no small commitment. It will take concerted collaboration and innovation to reach our zero-carbon goal. The CAC is incredibly lucky to have members dedicated to the task. Over the past thirty years, we have decreased concrete’s carbon footprint by 20% in Canada. Our members are working hard to reduce emissions even further, through innovations in alternative low-carbon fuels, novel-low carbon cements, and working across the construction value chain to support innovations in design and material efficiency.

For example, Portland limestone cement (PLC) is a lower-carbon cement that reduces CO2 emissions by 10% compared to traditional cement. If PLC were to replace all cement consumed in Canada, it would save almost 1MT of GHG emissions per year.

Globally, and in Canada, the cement sector is also a leader in Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage (CCUS) technologies. This class of technologies has the potential to both capture CO2 at cement facilities while offering the opportunities to sequester captured carbon in concrete products.

The chemical nature of cement production means that CCUS will play an important role on the industry’s path to net-zero, offering a critical solution to residual CO2 that cannot be abated through other strategies. Lafarge Canada is in phase 2 of Project CO2MENT at their cement plant in Richmond, BC.

The technology enables the plant to capture the CO2 contained in the cement flue gas and lock it away in CO2-cured concrete. We are incredibly excited about this process, which has not been implemented in a cement plant anywhere else in the world.

In Alberta, Lehigh Hanson has partnered with the CCS Knowledge Centre on an advanced feasibility study to install a commercial scale carbon capture system at their Edmonton cement plant. When completed, the system is expected to capture 90-95 per cent of the CO2 from the cement plant’s flue gas (that could avoid almost 800,000 tonnes of CO2 annually!) to produce the world’s first near carbon-neutral cement.

Supporting Smart Climate Policies

Innovation and investment don’t happen in a vacuum. Our sector understands the importance of enabling regulatory and market-based policies to fostering low-carbon leadership. A cornerstone of our roadmap to net-zero concrete is working with all levels of government to remove barriers and open opportunities to low-carbon innovation. This includes supporting strong market-based signals, such as carbon pricing and investment supports like Canada’s Net-Zero Accelerator Fund. Just as important, we work collaboratively across a diverse set of stakeholders to support other critical policy reforms, including modernizing permitting processes, procurement policies and performance-based codes and standards to remove impediments to market adoption of existing and emerging low-carbon solutions.

2030 and Beyond

Achieving net-zero by 2050 is a critical goal for cement and concrete and for the global economy as a whole. But we understand this commitment is less meaningful without being supported by shorter-term milestones. That’s why the Canadian roadmap to net-zero will include, at a minimum, 2030 and 2040 carbon reduction milestones to keep us on track. Already, through our partnership with ISED we are seeking an almost 40% reduction in CO2 (or 15 cumulative megatonnes!) by 2030.

None of this would be possible without the outstanding commitment of our members. We’d like to thank them for their continuous leadership, innovation and hard work.

The Global Cement and Concrete Association’s roadmap to net-zero concrete sets out the positive vision for how the cement and concrete industry will play a major role in building the sustainable world of tomorrow. We look forward to sharing our very own roadmap for the Canadian industry in early 2022 and to continuing progress towards building the zero-carbon world of tomorrow.