Trade for prosperity

Martin Casey, European Director of Public Affairs, CEMEX, talks about CEMEX’s ESG commitment to building a better future, alongside important collaborative industry efforts to achieve Net Zero by 2050, by fully decarbonising the cement and concrete industry

The magnitude of the Net Zero task is clear to the world following COP26, the largest and most significant climate talks since the 2015 Paris Agreement. Now, more than ever, attention is being paid to climate change and the impact of different industries on carbon emissions. It comes as no surprise that the cement and concrete industry has been in the frame as one of the most significant global contributors. 

Collaboration is critical

CEMEX, in collaboration with the cement and concrete industry, is continuing to work hard to reduce emissions. We are proud to be part of the Global Cement and Concrete Association (GCCA), and together we are determined to meet the targets set as part of our Roadmap to Net Zero. In 2021, 40 members of the GCCA, including CEMEX, affirmed their commitment to Net Zero concrete by 2050 and agreed to an ambitious intermediate goal of preventing five billion tonnes of CO2 emissions by 2030. 

This marked the biggest global commitment by an industry to net zero so far – bringing together companies from the Americas, Africa, Asia, including India and China, and Europe. It follows the announcement during New York Climate Week 2021, that the GCCA has become the first global ‘heavy’ industry accelerator for the UN’s global Race to Zero. 

CEMEX Future In Action

At CEMEX, we have also set our own aggressive goals for enhancing the sustainability of our operations. CEMEX’s ‘Future In Action’ Climate Action strategy defines a global target to achieve 35% CO2 reduction by 2025 and 40% by 2030. This new goal is validated to the well-below 2°C scenario of the Science-Based Targets initiative. In Europe, the target is a 55% reduction by 2030 and CEMEX is the first company in the sector to align to the EU’s aspiration to achieve this across all member states. 

But it’s not just about setting the targets – we must take urgent action to achieve them and demonstrate that we take our commitments seriously. At CEMEX, action has already resulted in CO2 emissions across our global portfolio reducing by 24.5% since 1990, and in Europe by around 35%. Globally, we have already achieved a 28.5% alternative fuel substitution rate, with investment taking place across the business to improve this. 

Green Hydrogen to Reduce Fossil Fuels 

In the UK, we announced in the first quarter of 2021, approximately a US$25 million investment into a new system to further replace fossil fuels at our UK Rugby cement plant. Following a successful trial at CEMEX’s Alicante cement plant in Spain, this investment includes the use of green hydrogen in the production process. This new technology quickly confirmed its potential as a lever to reduce CO2 emissions by enhancing the cement kiln combustion process.

The use of green hydrogen in the production process and new fuel handling system is now commencing operation and once fully optimised will have the capability to operate at 100% with alternative fuels. This could reduce the clinker CO2 by 146 kgCO2/tonne, which is equivalent to removing 86,000 medium size cars from the roads. Such techniques are hugely impactful and support reduction in consumption of fossil fuels across the entire global business. 

Carbon Neutral Alliance

Another example is the formation of a Carbon Neutral Alliance around our Rudersdorf cement plant in Germany. The alliance has set a visionary blueprint for a future carbon neutral cement plant with an aspiration to achieve it by 2030. The alliance has several consortiums involving over 20 partners. Projects already underway are clustered into maximising proven technologies such as alternative fuels, decarbonated raw materials, waste heat recovery and product technology – and also to install pilot scale new technologies of carbon capture, beneficial utilisation and potential storage by 2025 to upscale by 2030. 

The more we do in this area and collectively as an industry, we hope it will result in mean a wider appreciation of the efforts that have been made – and it serve to inspire the rest of the value chain, both local and global. We further hope that the progress made will translate into a better perception of our industry – an acknowledgement that we have recognised the scale of the challenge and stepped up to the plate. 

Building a Better Future 

We all know that the products we make are essential; the construction industry and indeed the wider world simply cannot function without cement, concrete and aggregates. In particular, concrete is a vital part of the crucial infrastructure that we use on a day-to-day basis including housing, hospitals, roads and railways. It is resilient and hard-wearing and can be recycled indefinitely whilst also reabsorbing CO2 during its lifetime. It must not be considered an inefficient or unsustainable building material. 

Climate action is the biggest challenge of our time. The next decade’s strong action will be critical to set the path towards 2050. At CEMEX, we commit to a continued drive to lead the industry in climate action, not only because it creates value, but more importantly, because it is the right thing to do. CEMEX is building a better future, and that future must be net zero CO2. 

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