UN report shows pathways to carbon-neutrality in “energy intensive” steel, chemicals and cement industries.

The United Nations has issued a warning that the world is at risk of failing to achieve the target of a 1.5-degree Celsius average increase in temperatures. This can only be avoided through swift and large-scale action to address greenhouse gas emissions from energy-intensive industries. These industries, which include cement, iron and steel, and chemicals and petrochemicals, account for approximately 25% of global CO2 emissions and 66% of emissions from the industrial sector. 

A new technology brief, presented at COP27, highlights the significance of these industries as major contributors to CO2 emissions. The brief focuses on the Pan-European, North American, and Arab regions and has been prepared by the UN Regional Commissions UNECE and ESCWA. It identifies practical measures that should be implemented to combat these emissions.

The UNECE Executive Secretary, Olga Algayerova, emphasizes the importance of these industries in modern economies and their role in the low-carbon recovery post-Covid. She highlights the need for these energy-intensive sectors to transition to a carbon-neutral economy while maintaining their global competitiveness. Adopting circular economy approaches and reducing the demand for new materials are crucial steps in achieving this. Urgent action is required to implement these solutions.

The cement, iron and steel, and chemicals and petrochemicals industries are vital economic sectors that are challenging to decarbonize. They account for significant proportions of industrial CO2 emissions, with cement at 27%, iron and steel at 25%, and chemicals and petrochemicals at 14%. These industries form the foundation of modern economies and play a crucial role in various industrial value chains, providing both raw and processed materials.

Cement, in particular, is one of the most consumed products globally, second only to potable water. The cement industry alone is responsible for nearly 7% of global emissions. Compared to other energy-intensive industries, cement production emits approximately 7kg of CO2 per revenue dollar, while steel production emits 1.5kg and chemicals production emits 0.3kg. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), there is a growing global demand for these industries, making it imperative to address their emissions.

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