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Swiss researchers chart path to zero-emission cement

(EurActiv, 31 Oct 2018) The construction sector can cut polluting emissions up to 80% by applying efficiency measures along the whole value chain, according to new research. If combined with carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, emissions could even be brought down to zero by 2050, they argue.

Achieving carbon neutrality in the cement and concrete sector won’t be easy but it’s technologically feasible and can be achieved with adequate investments, according to researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) and the Ecole Polytechnique de Lausanne (EPFL).

If applied across the entire construction value chain, more efficient production methods can put the sector on track with the Paris Agreement on climate change, which commits signatories to keep global warming “well below 2°C” and aiming for 1.5°C, the researchers say.

Cement and concrete are used in all types of construction – homes, schools, roads or bridges – making up more than half of all the materials used globally. If the European cement sector were a country, it would emit as much CO2 as Belgium, according to the study, commissioned by the European Climate Foundation, a non-profit organisation.

A particular challenge for the construction sector is that less than 40% of emissions come from the energy used to produce cement. The rest – around 60% – comes from the chemical breakdown of limestone, a process requiring large amounts of heat that will continue to emit CO2 even if cement factories deploy renewables energies at 100% capacity.

80% CO2 reduction, with existing technologies

The good news is that those emissions can be significantly reduced using existing technology, the Swiss researchers found.

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EurActiv, 31 Oct 2018: Swiss researchers chart path to zero-emission cement