Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash.

The time has come to get serious about decarbonising the emission-intensive materials sector. The production of basic materials (cement, iron and steel, paper and board, aluminium and chemicals and petrochemicals) accounted for around 25% of global CO2 emissions in 2014 (Figure 1). As non-OECD countries are developing infrastructure and housing in line with their economic growth, their demand for basic materials is particularly high. This demand accounted for around 80% of carbon intensive materials (by weight) contributing to about 75% of the global emissions from basic materials production.

While a portfolio of mitigation options exists to decarbonise the materials sector, progress in their realisation has been rather modest, mainly due to two reasons. However, some of these past barriers to progress may be shifting.

Nonetheless, the capital-intensive investments that are needed to move from early phase innovation to commercial scale for decarbonised production processes and products will not take place unless there are sufficient incentives from the surrounding policy framework. However, the current lack of clarity regarding the policy
framework and its further evolution results in an investment limbo.

Developing the necessary policy framework requires two things:

  1. A broadly shared vision of feasible development pathways towards deep decarbonisation of material production and use;
  2. Further efforts to identify and fill gaps in the existing policy framework for emissions reductions in the materials sector, to enable industry to more effectively unlock options for a shift to new technologies, processes, and materials.

This report explores what could be a suitable policy package to allow the private sector to pursue this journey and to align the political support of constituencies interested in individual mitigation options.

A policy brief summarising the findings of the report is also available to download.