The role of cement in the
2050 Low Carbon Economy

Towards the Future

Koen Coppenholle,
Chief Executive

As a society, we face a series of daunting challenges: slow or no economic growth, urbanisation, climate change, rising cost of energy… to name but a few. As corporate citizens, we share the responsibility of rising to these challenges and finding solutions, whilst doing all we can to reduce the impact of our industry on the environment.

Cement and concrete will be pivotal to addressing many of today’s critical issues through sustainable building and infrastructure development. But this has to go hand in hand with concerted efforts to reduce our emissions. We support the idea of an 80% emission reduction target by 2050 and are committed to doing our part in contributing to reaching this goal. Our industry already helps current energy efficiency targets of low-carbon and low-energy life cycle consumption in the building sector to be met by providing key materials to construct very low- or even zero-energy buildings.

As the newly appointed Chief Executive of CEMBUREAU, I have found the process of developing this roadmap fascinating. It has brought out the best in our industry and has gathered many different people, from inside the industry and beyond, together with a common purpose.

This roadmap is the result of open discussion within the industry and with external stakeholders. In the course of its development, NGOs, policymakers and international agencies were invited to provide input at various stages. The solutions outlined here are tangible and not just pipe dreams. Some of the technologies described might still be at an early development stage, but they are more than abstract ideas. Unfortunately, there is no ‘silver bullet’. A combination of process efficiency, raw material choices, sustainable fuel sources, continuous innovation and breakthrough technology will all contribute to the accomplishment of our objectives.

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.

However, we cannot do it 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. For instance, using clinker substitutes will only work if we have access to a steady supply of by-products. Another example is CCS, which is a key element of this roadmap, but will require acceptance, policies and infrastructure to move it beyond the pilot phase.

Cement is still a local product, made in plants that are often the economic backbone of smaller communities, so production and innovation are often on a local scale. But Europe is at the forefront of cement and concrete innovation, and research centres across the continent are working on perfecting performance and reducing the environmental impact of products and manufacturing processes, expressly adapted to Europe’s needs. Nevertheless, cement remains a fairly standard commodity and local production, especially in areas near ports, is vulnerable to imports from countries with lower production costs or less demanding environmental requirements.

We believe that by combining our forces, we can build a strong European industrial base within the framework of a coherent industrial policy that will deliver on all three pillars of sustainability. Ensuring a competitive industry whereby access to affordable energy and raw materials and predictability of legislation are given appropriate attention is a precondition for the survival of the cement industry in Europe and its contribution to growth, innovation and employment. We hope that this roadmap will form the basis for continued dialogue with a wide range of stakeholders, both inside and outside the industry, and offer further perspectives on how we can work together on building a low-carbon society.

Koen Coppenholle
Chief Executive