Nearly every construction project uses cement. But cement manufacturing consumes the third-most energy among industries worldwide. It’s the second-largest emitter of carbon dioxide, producing around 6 per cent of the primary greenhouse gas causing climate change. Now the industry is taking action.
That pollution is likely to grow worse. By 2015, almost 10 billion people will live on the planet. Around 60 per cent of the infrastructure they need – homes, roads, etcetera – has yet to be built. “The challenge to the cement industry is clear: it must maintain and even increase the momentum that the sector has built up in reducing CO2 emissions,” wrote the Switzerland-based World Business Council for Sustainable Development recently.
Almost 20 years ago, the council helped create the Cement Sustainability Initiative, a global effort of 24 major cement producers in more than 100 countries that produce around a third of the world’s cement.
The initiative recently released a roadmap for 2050 that industry leaders hope will reduce the carbon emissions associated with cement production and perhaps recycle materials that otherwise would harm the environment. For years, cement makers have used 100 per cent alternative fuels, including waste oil and used tires, in manufacturing. The industry also uses natural mixes of limestone and sand rather than materials that require petrochemicals for their creation.
Now the industry hopes to lobby governments to make sure low-carbon cement can compete financially with high-carbon competitors, upgrading to state-of-the-art kilns that use less energy and changing regulations to allow for less “clinker”, or chunks of material, that require more carbon-intensive work without compromising strength, according to the roadmap.
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