concrete carbon footprint

[Image above] Credit: haven’t the slightest; Flickr CC BY-ND 2.0


The Portland Cement Association predicts a 2.8 percent growth in cement consumption for 2018 and 2019 and a 4 percent increase by 2020.

While that’s good news for the industry, it doesn’t bode well for the environment. Cement, the main ingredient in concrete, is responsible for nearly 7 percent of CO2 emissions, according to the International Energy Agency. So growth in the industry could possibly mean a corresponding increase in carbon emissions.

The cement industry gathered in June at the World Cement Association’s (WCA) Global Climate Change Forum in Paris to discuss solutions to its growing problem of carbon emissions, including the technology gap delegates acknowledged it needs to close in order to transition to a lower carbon footprint.

“The Global Climate Change Forum made clear the importance of stimulating innovation if we are to have any hope of achieving the Paris climate goals,” WCA Climate Change program director Bernard Mathieu explains in a July news release. “What has been very positive is to see the enthusiasm among our members for sharing knowledge and best practice, and we will continue to focus on being a platform for change, delivering concrete action against the climate challenges of today and tomorrow.”

The forum paid off—the WCA recently announced an action plan on its website.

Recognizing that change involves a collaborative effort between industry and external stakeholders, WCA member company leaders identified five “areas of collective action” to transition toward carbon neutrality and support the Paris Agreement’s goal of “keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.”

The WCA Climate Action Plan lays out the following initiatives:

Transparency. The WCA agrees to monitor and train members to accurately report the carbon footprint of their products for the “Getting the Numbers Right” CO2 and energy performance database.

Optimal use of cement products in construction. Members will educate end users, including concrete producers, on the use of low-carbon solutions for the life of buildings and infrastructure. The WCA will also recommend guidelines for sustainable building codes and standards.

Recycling/co-processing. The WCA plans to create a knowledge exchange platform to stimulate waste co-processing globally, which could significantly reduce CO2 emissions.

Encourage and explore innovations in technology. The WCA will keep members informed and educated on the latest green technologies for their industry through ongoing knowledge-sharing events, including its annual Global Climate Change Forum featuring subject matter experts. Topics include low-carbon alternative binders, carbon capture, life-cycle performance and economic viability of new cements, and digital technologies, among others.

Supporting new business models. The WCA understands that encouraging creation of innovative solutions is key to reaching the Paris agreement goal. It will create a process to recognize innovative products, solutions, and business models that provide low-carbon solutions.

WCA officials will present details of the action plan to its members at the World Cement Conference in December.

For more information about the WCA Climate Action plan, download the 8-page report at this link.