SBTi launches world first 1.5°C science-based framework to decarbonize the cement industry

21st Sep 2022

  • The Cement Science Based Target Setting Guidance launches today to enable companies in the cement and concrete industry to set near-and long-term science-based targets in line with 1.5°C for the first time.

  • The cement industry is responsible for 7% of CO2 emissions globally. To get on track with the Net Zero Emissions by 2050 scenario the sector must cut its emissions by 3% per year by 2030.

  • This Guidance is designed for clinker, cement and concrete manufacturers; as well as producers of novel binders and cement substitutes.

  • The framework also supports companies that purchase cement in the target setting process for their scope 3 emissions.

The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), the global body enabling businesses to set emissions reduction targets in line with the latest climate science, is launching the first framework for companies in the cement sector and other potential users of cement such as construction businesses, to set near- and long-term science-based targets in line with 1.5°C - the Cement Science Based Target Setting Guidance.

This document provides the scientific basis for sector-specific 1.5ºC decarbonization pathways. It includes detailed guidance on how to set targets and deal with processes that are specific to the cement and concrete sector, greenhouse gas accounting criteria and recommendations, as well as examples on how different types of companies can use the tools and guidance to submit a target for validation. This sector is the second-largest industrial CO2 emitter, representing about 7% of CO2 emissions globally.

To date, more than 30 cement companies have committed to or set a science-based target, of which a third are committed to net-zero. It is crucial to exponentially grow the number of companies setting emissions reduction targets in this industry if they are to remain economically competitive and minimize human suffering from the impacts of global warming. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA) the cement sector must scale up climate action and cut its CO2 emissions by 3% per year by 2030 to get on track with the Net Zero Emissions by 2050 scenario.

Alberto Carrillo Pineda, Co-Founder and Chief Technical Officer of the SBTi, said: “To prevent the climate crisis from getting worse and the negative impacts becoming more frequent with every fraction of warming, urgent action from the private sector is required. For the first time, cement companies have a clear blueprint on how to align their decarbonization strategies with climate science taking into account the unique context of the industry.

“The transformation towards low-carbon emitting technologies is critical for the long-term viability of the industry. We encourage all cement production companies to set science-based targets and to play their role in building a climate safe economy”.

Concrete action in decarbonizing the cement industry

Each year around 4.4 Gt of cement are produced. For every ton of cement manufactured, approximately 0.6 tonnes of CO2 is released. Around two thirds of emissions come from raw materials (limestone) in clinker production, with the remaining third from burning fuels and electricity use.

Through this guidance, the SBTi outlines how much and how quickly a company within the cement value chain needs to cut its emissions to limit global warming to 1.5°C. It addresses sector-specific methodological questions and makes the target development and validation process easier for companies, clarifying the definitions to be used for target setting (e.g. cement and cementitious product, gross emissions), scope (e.g. the role of emissions outside the control of the company, such as from purchased goods or distribution, also known as scope 3 emissions) and how to include emissions from concrete production in targets.

The SBTi Cement Guidance includes clinker, cement and concrete manufacturers; companies in the value chain that do not produce their own clinker or cement; other potential users such as construction businesses; and producers of novel binders and cement substitutes.

This framework has also been designed for those companies that purchase cement, the emissions from which will fall within their scope 3 inventory. Instead of using the generic scope 3 methods, they will be able to use the cement pathway to set targets that cover their cement procurement.

Developing the first 1.5°C science-based pathway for cement

The SBTi Cement Guidance was developed in consultation with an independent Expert Advisory Group (EAG) made up of academia, civil society, and businesses. This development process included a month-long public consultation to guarantee the criteria and guidance are robust, clear, and practical, and provide business leaders with confidence that their decarbonization strategies are in line with climate science.

Holcim was a key supporter in the development of this framework.

Jan Jenisch, CEO Holcim: “At Holcim, we are decarbonizing construction to build better with less for a net-zero future that improves living standards for all. Taking a rigorous, science-driven approach on this journey, we partnered with SBTi to create our sector’s first 1.5°C-aligned framework. Today we submit our revised 2030 net-zero targets in line with this framework and we encourage all our peers to join us to scale up our impact together.”

Thomas Guillot, CEO of the Global Cement and Concrete Association - GCCA said: “It is great that we now have a 1.5ºC standard for cement and proud we are among the first sectors to have one. Whilst there are still a number of points to clarify to ensure that all decarbonisation levers are recognised, it is a good step forward.

“The GCCA and our member companies are committed to a net zero future and our Concrete Future 2050 Roadmap shows how to get there. Many of our members already joined the Race to Zero, and we encourage all our members to do so. We stand ready to collaborate to develop this important work further.”

We are facing a turning point in history: unless the world immediately and dramatically cuts emissions in the next eight years, we will not prevent a climate catastrophe.

Cement companies must urgently act on the clear warnings from climate science, show leadership to achieve a net-zero economy and build a sustainable and resilient future by setting science-based targets and continue monitoring and reporting their own progress.