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Canada, UAE launch low-carbon cement, concrete action at COP28

First members of the Cement & Concrete Breakthrough initiative include Germany, Japan, U.K.

The Canadian government's Roadmap to Net-Zero Carbon Concrete by 2050 report provides a framework for the Cement & Concrete Breakthrough initiative. (Courtesy Government of Canada)

Canada and the UAE unveiled the Cement & Concrete Breakthrough initiative at the COP28 climate conference, with the intent of sharing ways to decarbonize the building materials globally.

Germany, Japan, Ireland and the U.K. are among the first countries that have joined the Cement & Concrete Breakthrough initiative, according to a release.

The Canadian government said it is an opportunity to drive the adoption of low-carbon cement and concrete, building on its Roadmap to Net-Zero Carbon Concrete by 2050 report published in 2022.

The cement and concrete industry is one of the largest polluters in the world. Cement is responsible for eight per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to one estimate.

“Our member companies, which operate all around the world, are fully committed to a net zero future — and it will take the combined efforts of industry and government to deliver on this commitment,” Thomas Guillot, the CEO of the Global Cement and Concrete Association, said in the release.

The Global Cement and Concrete Association is a London, U.K.-based organization for the cement and concrete industry to participate in sustainability discussions.

About Cement & Concrete Breakthrough

The initiative will have three pillars in 2024, according to the Canadian government:

  • Decide on priority actions with partner countries to decarbonize the cement and concrete sector;
  • start thematic dialogues to share best practices in the sector with the involvement of developing and emerging economies; and
  • support the leadership of government, private and non-governmental partners toward the decarbonization of cement and concrete.

A joint statement between the Canadian and Emirati governments stated the breakthrough has the overarching goal of “making clean cement the preferred choice in global markets and with the objective of having near-zero emission cement production established and growing in every region of the world by 2030.”

The list of initial members who signed on to the initiative does not include some of the biggest producers of concrete and cement such as China, India and the U.S.

Cement and concrete, and buildings, have also been added to the Breakthrough Agenda, which was created at COP26 in 2022 to provide decarbonization frameworks for various industries. Power, road transport, steel, hydrogen and agriculture were already announced as sectors covered by the agenda.

The addition of the two sectors means the Breakthrough Agenda covers the industries responsible for more than 60 per cent of global emissions, the release said.

Canada’s cement and concrete decarbonization plan

In the Roadmap to Net-Zero Carbon Concrete by 2050, the Canadian government outlined its plan to make Canada a leader in low-carbon cement and concrete.

Steps include pursuing new export opportunities and international collaboration and advocacy on emerging policy trends, supporting innovation in the concrete value chain and fostering the market conditions to drive the industry toward net-zero.

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