Heavy industry decarbonization

In the fight against climate change, heavy industries are the next frontier

Steel and cement production account for just over 50 per cent of all industrial emissions. The need for continuous high-temperature heat to produce these vital materials requires huge amounts of energy, much of which is still dependent on fossil fuels. Moreover, the chemical processes involved in producing these materials are themselves a major source of emissions.

Demand for these globally-traded materials are on the rise as many countries continue to industrialize. So much so that the world is expected to build the equivalent of another New York City every month for the next 40 years! Most of this new construction will use concrete — the second most consumed product in the world after water.

Decarbonizing the steel and cement industries will not only require new and more reliable technologies, companies will also need to transform whole production processes. Meanwhile governments worldwide will need to agree on a global 2050 vision for the decarbonization of the steel and cement industries with ambitious targets.

Turning the tide

In 2021, UNIDO and the Clean Energy Ministerial launched the Industrial Deep Decarbonization Initiative (IDDI), the largest and most diverse coalition of governments and private sector working to decarbonize heavy industries, starting with steel, cement and concrete. IDDI aims to stimulate the demand for low carbon materials through green public procurement (GPP) by:

If you make it, we will buy it

While there is still a way to go before clearly defined ‘low carbon’ cement and steel is available at scale, green public procurement commitments are essential in signaling to the market that: “if you make it we will buy it.” Within the next three years IDDI expects to have encouraged a minimum of ten governments to make public procurement commitments for low carbon steel and cement.

Technical working groups

The IDDI has established three technical Working Groups (WGs), bringing together government, private sector, civil society, intergovernmental organizations, trade associations, and leading experts from academia and think tanks. These WGs are improving data and reporting protocols on embodied carbon, harmonizing standards for products and exchanging best practices on green procurement policies.

Working group 1:

Data and reporting

This working group will develop appropriate guidelines for data collection and reporting frameworks for green public procurement. This group is also a unique forum to guide national processes related to industrial data collection and reporting systems, particularly for steel and cement.

Decarb_UNIDO_workgroup1

Working group 2:

Low carbon standards

This working group is focused on material-specific standards or guidelines for measuring the life cycle GHG emissions of steel, cement, and concrete. Starting with the various standards currently in use by industry and other actors, this group develop a methodology to support the interoperability of standards on an interim basis to support comparability. Working with a wide range of partners, it then aims to widen the use of agreed standards worldwide.

Working group 3:

Green public procurement (GPP)

This working group will leverage the power of green public procurement to accelerate decarbonization. It aims to agree on a harmonized approach to requirements for the disclosure and reduction of embodied carbon in concrete and steel in public construction projects. It also aims to identify challenges and solutions that GPP can deliver in this area.

Working group 1:

Data and reporting

This working group will develop appropriate guidelines for data collection and reporting frameworks for green public procurement. This group is also a unique forum to guide national processes related to industrial data collection and reporting systems, particularly for steel and cement.

Working group 2:

Low carbon standards

This working group is focused on material-specific standards or guidelines for measuring the life cycle GHG emissions of steel, cement, and concrete. Starting with the various standards currently in use by industry and other actors, this group develop a methodology to support the interoperability of standards on an interim basis to support comparability. Working with a wide range of partners, it then aims to widen the use of agreed standards worldwide.

Working group 3:

Green public procurement (GPP)

This working group will leverage the power of green public procurement to accelerate decarbonization. It aims to agree on a harmonized approach to requirements for the disclosure and reduction of embodied carbon in concrete and steel in public construction projects. It also aims to identify challenges and solutions that GPP can deliver in this area.

Who is involved

Coordinated by UNIDO, IDDI is co-led by the United Kingdom and India and current members include Canada and Germany, with more countries set to join the effort. IDDI also brings together a strong coalition of related initiatives and organizations including the Mission Possible Partnership, the Climate Group, the Leadership Group for the Industry Transition (LeadIT), Building Transparency, and Agora Energiewende.