Zero-Carbon Cement is on its way, but it could take some time.

Developing low carbon concrete in key for sustainable digital infrastructure

Digital Infrastructure as with most other industries relies heavily on cement and concrete to fuel its aggressive construction programmes and like other sectors, the embodied carbon from concrete forms a large percentage of the Scope 3 emissions the industry needs to deal with as part of its transition to net-zero.  To this end, DIN was encouraged to read about Thomas Guillot, Chief Executive of the Global Cement and Concrete Association announcing their planned road to net-zero emissions.

It’s amazing to think that three-quarters of the infrastructure that will exist in 2050 has yet to be built. This was the statement made by António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations at the launch of the Global Cement and Concrete Association (GCCA) Global Net-Zero Roadmap for cement and concrete.

He went on to underline how important sustainable building materials are to our future stating that, “without credible action now, future generations will have no liveable planet to build upon.”

Concrete is an essential element of construction, with no other material equalling its resilience, strength, affordability, and wide availability. It is the most used human-made material on the planet with 14 billion cubic meters produced every year for use in every form of construction including data centers. The production of cement accounts for approximately 7% of global CO2 emissions.

The GCCA on behalf of the industry has published, a detailed roadmap to net-zero by 2050, with a commitment to reduce emissions by a quarter in the next decade. The GCCA represent the major industry players from around the world. The roadmap they have published is built around some key actions. It includes boosting the offering of low carbon cement and concrete products, increasing circularity, reducing fossil fuel use in manufacturing, and accelerating innovation and breakthrough technologies such as carbon capture. This is, without doubt, a very positive step in the right direction and we hope will be followed by all other industries.

However, is it really going to take the next 29 years to achieve this, and can we really wait this long? If three-quarters of the infrastructures that will exist in 2050 have yet to be built, then it’s imperative that we aim to meet these commitments in a far shorter timescale. Clearly changing an entire industry takes time but could this sector as with any other energy-intensive industry contribute more rapidly by immediately moving towards 24×7 renewable energy matching. This approach if done correctly could help fund additive renewable energy and have a significant impact on the renewable energy transition. This could be a quicker win given energy generation accounts for roughly 73% of global emissions.

Achieving Zero-Carbon is going to take a coordinated effort by both policymakers and industry to create demand for low carbon products. If we are going to make the leap to a net-zero economy, we need to rapidly develop internationally recognised mechanisms for carbon pricing and carbon measurement that will in a large part be enabled by the global technology and digital infrastructure industry.

This transition certainly isn’t going to happen overnight, and we know it’s going to require collaboration at a global level to make this happen but it’s good to see that the cement and concrete industry is taking steps to enable a zero-carbon economy that’s built on ‘green concrete’. Let’s just try and speed it up a little bit.

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