Solid solutions to a sneaky polluter
Australia can lead the world in commercialising alternative cements, helping to cut pollution from the highest-emitting sector of manufacturing, a Beyond Zero Emissions report shows.
Beyond Zero Emissions CEO, Vanessa Petrie said the world-first report showed that it was now achievable and affordable to change the way cement is manufactured and slash carbon emissions.
“We’ve been making cement in pretty much the same way for 200 years: heating up limestone and releasing huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. We must change this if we are serious about cutting pollution in line with our Paris climate commitments,” Ms Petrie said.
“By changing the way cement is made, we can eliminate 8% of the world’s carbon emissions while continuing to build strong, affordable and durable infrastructure.”
Beyond Zero Emissions Head of Research, and Rethinking Cement author, Michael Lord says zero carbon cements present a huge economic opportunity for Australia.
“People all around the world are demanding climate solutions, and embracing green and sustainable buildings. Demand for zero carbon cement to build homes, workplaces and public infrastructure will grow as people learn that there are affordable alternatives to traditional cement,” Mr Lord said.
Cement is a multi-billion-dollar global industry, with four billion tonnes of cement made each year.Rethinking Cement shows how Australia can lead the world with the zero carbon cements of the future.
BZE’s Rethinking Cement is the world’s first detailed plan for decarbonising a national cement industry. The report shows Australia could do this in just 10 years. We could even go further, removing carbon from the atmosphere by using more timber for construction and developing carbon-negative cements.
A further advantage of zero carbon cements is that they can be made from problematic wastes such as broken glass and fly ash from coal-fired power stations.
Cement: the facts
- Cement making produces 8% of all global carbon emissions, more than the global car fleet.
- As limestone is heated in a cement kiln it decomposes, releasing carbon dioxide. This chemical reaction is the source of 55% of cement emissions, and more than 4% of all global emissions. As long as cement is made from heating limestone, carbon emissions are unavoidable.
- Burning fossil fuels to create the high temperatures required for processing makes up another 32% of cement emissions; and the other 13% is indirect emissions from electricity needed to grind and transport material within the manufacturing plant.
- Making one tonne of cement in Australia produces 0.82 tonnes of carbon dioxide, slightly less than the global average.
- Geopolymer cements, which can be made without limestone, can reduce cement carbon emissions by up to 90%, and high-blend cements can reduce emissions by up to 70%.
- Global cement use has boomed since 2000. China alone produced more cement between 2011 and 2014 that the United States made in the entire 20th century.
- Examples of Australian structures that use modern cements include the Brisbane West Wellcamp Airport, the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland, Swan Street Bridge retaining walls in Melbourne, and the Pixel Building in Melbourne.
Beyond Zero Emissions is one of Australia’s most respected climate change think-tanks. We produce independent research which shows that zero emissions is technically feasible and affordable now.
For interviews contact Greg Muller, firstname.lastname@example.org, 0414 654 288