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Low carbon economy

European cement industry presents five routes to a low carbon future!

On 25 September 2013, CEMBUREAU unveiled its vision of what the cement industry could potentially achieve on the road to a low carbon economy of the future.  This project has focused on what the sector sees as potentially contributing towards achieving a low carbon economy and the input and opinion of key external stakeholders has been of invaluable use during the project. As such, a dinner debate, hosted by MEP Karl-Heinz Florenz, was organized to present and discuss the outcomes. 

During the debate, CEMBUREAU President, Peter Hoddinott, indicated that the European Cement Industry is committed to reducing Greenhouse Gas emissions.  He underlined the fact that, Much has already been achieved, and we can build on this experience to achieve a reduction of 32% in carbon emissions compared with 1990 levels. As to whether more could be achieved he stated that “With breakthrough technologies and a supportive policy framework, a potential reduction of up to 80% by 2050 can be envisaged. In addition, innovations in concrete construction can allow the contribution of the industry to contribute more. For example, intelligently-conceived modern concrete buildings can use three quarters less energy over their whole life. With over 35% of Europe's energy consumed in buildings, how concrete is used can have profound benefits for where we live and work tomorrow.”

The project itself, as presented by Simon Leysen, from Morris & Chapman, lays out five parallel routes which can each contribute to lowering emissions related to cement production, as well as concrete production. These have been divided into two groups. The first 3 routes, which cover resource efficiency, energy efficiency and carbon sequestration and reuse, have been quantified for the purpose of this roadmap as they fall under the sector’s control. The final two routes (product efficiency and downstream) look at how cement and concrete can contribute to a low carbon society.  Nevertheless, potential savings from the two routes outlined do not relate directly to cement manufacturing, so were not included. 

Koen Coppenholle, CEMBUREAU Chief Executive noted that “The cement and concrete industry can play a crucial role in helping Europe achieve its goals, since its vision sits well with European requirements and strategic objectives on employment, innovation, education, social inclusion and climate & energy.”  Nevertheless, he also highlighted the fact that the cement industry cannot do this alone: “We are part of Europe’s industrial landscape and depend on other industries, governments and players to be able to deliver on specific parts of this roadmap.”

More information: The role of cement in the low carbon economy - Downloadable PDF

Comments on this roadmap are welcome and should be sent to Jessica Johnson

Background & stakeholders debate

With the aim of identifying how key stakeholders see the cement industry in the future, a stakeholders debate was organised at the CEMBUREAU premises on 26 April 2012.  This section provides a summary of the various points raised and discussed.


The following organisations were represented during the debate:

  • Centre for Clean Air Policy Europe
  • Centre for European Policy Studies
  • European Commission
  • European Economic and Social Committee
  • International Energy Agency
  • World Wildlife Fund

The debate was moderated by Simon Leysen (Morris & Chapman). 

Although representatives from the CEMBUREAU team were present, this was purely in an observational capacity. 

Debate outcomes

The debate provided valuable food for thought for the cement sector.  Below is a summary of the various points which participants felt should be taken into consideration by the cement industry.

Terminology: In this respect, the question was raised as to whether what the cement industry plans to develop is a “Roadmap”, a “Vision” or whether it should be given a different name.  As such, for the purposes of this summary and until a definitive, more accurate term is identified, it will be referred to as a “Project”.

What is cement: Regarding cement itself, participants felt that a clear explanation of what it is and how it is manufactured was required.  The key element here is that the explanation itself should be simple and easy to understand, rather than the more technical descriptions which are currently used by the sector.

Scope: Before embarking further on this project, it was made clear that a decision must be taken as to how wide the scope should be.  In this respect, the general consensus was that it should cover the whole life cycle of cement, including final product and recycling.  Nevertheless, particular emphasis must be placed on the elements over which the cement industry has control, namely cement manufacturing.  It addition, the suggestion was that the cement industry should be looking not just at what could be achieved by 2050 -  a longer term perspective would also prove beneficial given that, in cement production technology terms, 2050 is just around the corner.

Acting on directly vs influencing: The project should clearly make a distinction between what the sector can act on directly (i.e. the areas over which it has full control), and those which it can influence (through other stakeholders, particularly the wider construction sector).  Participants were clear that it is important that both these aspects are tackled.

Externalities/policy: All externalities/policies (i.e. elements which will have an impact on the direction taken by the cement industry) must be clearly identified.  Following this, a SWOT analysis should be undertaken for each.  In this respect, participants listed a number of externalities which they believe should be looked into, namely

  • Carbon leakage
  • Research: stimulate, support and finance
  • Training: skilled workforce
  • Access to market for breakthrough technologies
  • Integrated EU industrial policy
  • Eco-design legislation/standards/public procurement
  • Public acceptance
  • National climate change roadmaps (China, Russia, India)

Modelling: Participants agreed that modelling would prove useful for the purposes of this project.  Nevertheless, they believe that rather than developing our own model, existing ones should be used (e.g. DG Enterprise, PRIMES). It was also clear from the discussion that the project output must, nevertheless, remain substance focused, rather than “a series of models and data”.

Technologies: Participants made reference to a number of technologies/products which they believe should be tackled by this project, namely:

  • Limestone-free cements
  • Alternative fuels
  • Clinker substitutes
  • Carbon capture
  • Recycling
  • New, innovative products with a higher value
  • Circular economy

Questions to be tackled

Stakeholders raised a number of questions which they felt should be answered by the cement industry.

Future market – what will it look like? In this respect, it was agreed that the sector needs to have a clear vision of what the future market will look like and what the role of cement will be within that context.

Cement production – will it remain in Europe? Is our sector willing to continue to manufacture cement in Europe, or will plants of the future be built outside Europe, with the continent increasingly depending on imports?

Binder needed – but will it be limestone based? All stakeholders were clear that cement is, and will remain, an essential product.  Nevertheless, the question was raised as to whether it will remain a limestone-based product.

Building stock renovation - what can we offer? In the light of ongoing discussions, the renovation of buildings to make them more energy efficient is a reality which the cement industry needs to focus on.  Thus, it was suggested that the cement industry should look into the solutions which our product can provide within the field of building renovation.

Beyond 2050 – carbon neutral cement industry? In relation to the comment raised as to whether the project should look beyond 2050, it was suggested that the sector should look into the prospect of becoming carbon neutral at a later stage.

Beyond the Roadmap – implementation? Whilst stakeholders were favourable to the development of this project, they indicated that the sector should identify ways in which the various elements can be implemented once the project is published.

Next steps

Participants also provided feedback on the next steps which they believe the team working on this project should undertake.

Get cement industry buy-in / CEO endorsement key: The message was clear -  in order for this project to lead to concrete developments, it will require the full backing of the cement industry, and more particularly CEOs.  Thus, internal communication, within the sector, clearly outlining the aims and the proposals will have to be convincing.
Contact other stakeholders (e.g one-to-one meetings): Participants believed a wider range of stakeholders should be consulted as the project evolves.  Suggestions include the following:

  • Developers of novel cements
  • Construction industry
  • European Construction Technology Platform
  • Financers (eg European Investment Bank)
  • Trade Unions

Ongoing progress updates/transparency: This debate must not be a one-shot discussion.  Participants indicated that they wish to be kept informed of developments as we progress.  In addition, transparency must remain a key element of the process.

Willingness to provide more feedback as required: In addition to the point raised above, participants indicated that they would also be willing to provide us with additional feedback.  CEMBUREAU is also free to contact them should there be any further queries or questions. 

Develop a clear timeframe: An idea as to when each stage of the project is expected to come to fruition was also deemed to be useful