At a New York Climate Week 2022 panel event on Sept. 20, the Portland Cement Association, in partnership with the Global Cement and Concrete Association, showcased the industry’s decarbonization progress since launching its Roadmap to Carbon Neutrality in October 2021. Panelists also reviewed next steps to accelerate efforts. While PCA spoke to U.S. cement companies’ advancements, GCCA provided a global perspective.

Selwin Hart, Special Advisor to the U.N. Secretary General for Climate Action and Just Transition, delivered the keynote speech, issuing a strong call for governments to take a more active role in helping to expedite industry efforts. Panelists also addressed specific policies that are vital to building a green, net zero concrete future, and discussed innovative tools available to stakeholders and policymakers worldwide.

“Cement and concrete are now at the heart of the U.S. infrastructure plan,” said Mike Ireland, President and CEO of PCA. “There is much work to be done. PCA, in collaboration with GCCA, and so many others are doing amazing things already. Our industry has long recognized the need for emissions reduction and has taken steps to increase efficiencies for many years, but we’re in a unique position to do much more. We’re already seeing encouraging signs of progress on our Roadmap. We must collaborate across the entire value chain to reach carbon neutrality.”

“The world is way off track from keeping the 1.5C global warming limit alive and meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement,” Hart remarked to industry leaders. “We urgently need all hands on deck. GCCA represents 80 percent of the cement industry – responsible for 7 percent of global CO2 emissions. You have the power to shape history. Your global association was the first heavy-industry association to set a net-zero commitment. But that means the easy part is done. We need you to be champions of net-zero credibility by bringing your entire industry and supply chain on board, including specific plans on how you will all reach net-zero, and what immediate steps you’ll take to cut emissions significantly each year.”

PCA member companies represent the majority of U.S. cement production capacity. Through their Roadmap, PCA and member companies have been working with industry partners globally, including research groups, along with government agencies, non-governmental organizations and academic institutions working toward a future of carbon neutrality.

“We’re coming up on one year since we formally launched our Roadmap to Carbon Neutrality and we’ve exceeded our expectations for near-term progress in such a short time,” said Ron Henley, President of GCC of America and Chairman of PCA. “We aimed to increase the use of available lower carbon cement products and we’re already seeing more requirements from architects and builders requesting lower carbon cement options. Carbon capture, utilization and storage is another big issue we want to accelerate addressing and we have a number of pilot projects looking at this from various angles. We are working with the administration to get more funding to expand and provide breakthrough technologies. We are committed to engaging the necessary stakeholders and are pursuing dialogues with regulators, other industries, academics and many others to make this work.”

“Since 1980, cement producers have reduced energy usage by 40 percent,” said Filiberto Ruiz, President and CEO of Votorantim Cimentos North America and Vice Chairman of PCA. “But this is not enough - we need to accelerate reductions across the value chain. At the cement plant, we can continue reducing emissions and add value to materials otherwise headed to landfills by reusing them as fuel. In the U.S., cement producers are only displacing their use of fossil fuels by 15 percent, on average, in comparison to 30 or 40 percent in other countries. Recently, we have been working with the Department of Energy to reduce the use of fossil fuels, but to do so, we need new permitting and other regulation changes.”

Next month marks one year since the release of the PCA Roadmap to Carbon Neutrality, which identifies the timelines, technologies and supporting policies needed to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. The Roadmap also provides direction and incentives within the industry and others across the cement-concrete-construction value chain.