Cementing a sustainable future

Global cement production is set to grow by 12%- 23% by 2050. (Image source: Adobe Stock)

The growing demand for cement and concrete is increasing the urgency to reduce the materials’ heavy carbon footprint

In 2020, around 4.2bn tonnes of cement was produced around the world, according to IRENA’s World Energy Transition Outlook 2023, a figure that corresponded to 3% of global final energy consumption and a staggering 8% contribution to global CO2 emissions (60% coming from related processes). 

In order to transform the cement industry, IRENA suggested several policies to reduce its environmental impact while retaining its competitiveness, with reducing the use of cement at the top of the list. 

While this may be an ideal scenario from the perspective of IRENA, the reality is that as the global population continues to swell – alongside higher rates of urbanisation – infrastructural needs from transport to energy will continue to grow, driving a demand for concrete in significant volumes, according to The Global Cement and Concrete Association (GCCA). Indeed, based on population and development, global cement production is set to grow by 12%- 23% by 2050, especially encouraged by regions with high population growth and need for infrastructure, such as Africa. 

The GCCA, in its Roadmap to Net Zero, has indicated several means to reduce the levels of CO2 emitted by the cement and concrete industry during this period, including savings in clinker production; utilising carbon capture and utilisation/storage; decarbonising electricity used in production; raising efficiency in production; and recarbonisation. While it stated that a concrete net zero future can be achieved on known technologies, it is striving to innovate at every stage of the life of concrete and cement and has called on policymakers, governments, researchers, innovators, and more to help drive this search for more climate-friendly material.

The challenge from GCCA has been taken up with vigour across much of the globe, with Tine Bremholm Kokfelt, senior project & export finance manager at FLSmidth, commenting, “Now, sustainability is at the centre of just about every project we work on… Fortunately, there are a lot of funds out there actively seeking opportunities to finance projects that reduce carbon emissions – including those from the cement industry.” 

On the continent

Indeed, the GCCA challenge has not fallen on deaf ears in Africa either, despite the continent being some way off the leading CO2 emitters from cement production (China takes the top spot with 57%). At the end of 2022, the GCCA and the United Cities and Local Government of Africa (UCLG Africa) signed a memorandum of understanding to increase collaboration towards decarbonising cement and concrete industries. The organisations agreed to work together to encourage local governments to take policy action towards decarbonisation targets and ensure cities have more capacity to embrace innovative cement products. 

Kenya-based East African Portland Cement, for instance, is making great strides in this department after releasing the sustainable Green Triangle Cement product last year. Produced using less clinker, the product minimises the manufacturers carbon emissions and, according to media reports, will be a key part of the company’s plans to expand its business into the wider region.

Lafarge Africa, a leading innovative and building solutions company, has also embraced this climate commitment with enthusiasm, and has announced the launch of its Eco Label brand to transparently communicate the environmental benefits of its building solutions. Lafarge Africa cement eco

The Eco Label branding builds on the company’s net zero pledge and represents a broad range of green cement for high performance, sustainable and circular construction. The release of this eco-friendly cement provides Lafarge’s end-users with the opportunity to make greener choices.

“Lafarge Africa is proud to be the first local cement manufacturer of eco-friendly cement to the Nigerian market. With the rollout of this Eco brand, we are accelerating the transition to more sustainable building materials for greener construction,” remarked Khaled El Dokani, country chief executive officer of Lafarge Africa. 

Vorke Enite, plant customer development manager, sales & marketing at Lafarge Africa, added, “With 30% decarbonisation, Lafarge remains committed to building progress for people and the planet and delivering value to our numerous customers and stakeholders. The product quality is still of certified standard and our customers are happy.

“Lafarge has been in the country for more than 60 years; our product quality is still the same. The Eco Label launch is a zero-emission initiative and is in compliance with global best practices. It is the same quality, the same efficacy and the same value for our customers/stakeholders.”

Read more content pieces around Africa's construction industry in the August issue of African Review here: https://www.africanreview.com/magazine-archives/african-review-august-2023