Is Net Zero Enough for the Material Production Sector?
2 min read

Is Net Zero Enough for the Material Production Sector?

Analysing the decarbonisation pathways for key material sectors and their ability to meet global carbon budget.  

New report calls for urgent action to reduce material use in key industries

Current Net Zero strategies in the materials production sectors are insufficient to meet climate targets

Urgent action is needed to reduce material use in key industries to avoid unprecedented climate change, according to new research by Zero Waste Europe (ZWE) and Eunomia Research & Consulting.

Failure to act soon could mean exhausting the remaining carbon budget, the maximum amount of CO2 that can be released and still limit global warming to 1.5°C, by as early as 2028. In 2015 world leaders agreed to keep warming to within 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels which would limit the worst environmental effects such as floods, droughts, extreme heatwaves, food scarcity and biodiversity loss.

A business-as-usual approach to materials production, which accounts for a quarter of global emissions, could contribute to warming of up to 2.5oC. Current industry net zero roadmaps are projected to still not meet the target, resulting in warming of up to 2oC. Early adoption of proven emission reduction practices, such as the decarbonisation of energy grids, should be made a priority in the near-term as the impact of deploying technologies after 2030 will be substantially less effective.

More key findings of the report ‘Is Net Zero Enough for the Materials Sector?’:

• Significant capital investment is needed to achieve electricity decarbonisation in the aluminium sector.
• The cement and concrete sectors rely heavily on unproven technologies to reduce CO2 emissions.
• Retrofitting existing systems in the iron and steel sectors with best available efficiency technologies provides the greatest emissions reduction and could be implemented immediately.
• Remaining within their carbon budget will be a significant challenge for the plastics industry as a drastic shift away from fossil fuels to bio-based materials is needed.

Joan Marc Simon, Executive Director of Zero Waste Europe said: "In view of the ongoing climate negotiations, decarbonisation strategies are insufficient to limit global warming to 1.5C. The only way forward is to reduce resource consumption, particularly in the Global North. Businesses, governments and civil society should come together and act urgently to make the best of resources available and deploy proven technologies to decarbonise the economy."

Eunomia’s Simon Hann, lead author of the research, concluded: “We often hear about the importance of keeping to 1.5oC and this essential piece of work helps to demonstrate what that could mean in practice for the materials we all consume. Slowly decarbonising for the next 30 years is evidently not enough and there is a clear need to change the way we think about material production and consumption. Bold and decisive near-term action from policy makers and industry leaders is therefore essential to make this happen.”

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