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Inside Innovation: Trump notwithstanding, global concrete producers form 2050 Climate Ambition

John Bleasby
Inside Innovation: Trump notwithstanding, global concrete producers form 2050 Climate Ambition

U.S. President Donald Trump’s well-known disdain for regulations has earned the “proud” re-election endorsement of the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), a U.S. construction industry organization representing more than 21,000 members.

In a letter dated Aug. 28, 2020, ABC president Michael Bellaman and national chair Tim Keating praised the Trump administration for its “continued support for fair and open competition, job creation, small businesses and expanded workforce development initiatives.”

Bellaman and Keating wrote, “ABC looks forward to continuing our work with your administration.”

One of Trump’s more audacious acts withdrew the U.S. from the 2015 Paris Climate Accord that calls for co-ordinated international action on CO2 and other GHG emissions.

However, the ABC letter is silent on the construction industry’s responsibility to play a role in GHG reductions. In fact, in the past, ABC has been, “troubled by the energy and environmental policy actions of the Obama administration.”

Meanwhile, rather than waiting for any industry-specific government regulations, leading concrete manufacturers are taking direct action of their own to address climate concerns, largely in response to marketplace demands for improvement. The Global Cement and Concrete Association (GCCA) recently released an action plan called 2050 Climate Ambition. GCCA members represent 50 per cent of the world’s cement production capacity and therefore carry significant weight across the industry.

“The 2050 Climate Ambition represents our industry’s commitment to further reducing emissions and ensuring that the vital product we provide can be delivered on a carbon neutral basis by 2050,” says GCCA president Albert Manifold. “Our Climate Ambition is the first time the global industry has come together as one to announce its commitment to carbon neutral concrete.”

The GCCA says since 1990, the global concrete and cement industry has already reduced CO2 emissions 19.2 per cent per tonne and increased the use of alternatives to fossil fuels by a factor of nine times.

Going forward, the association is committing to do more in several ways. Direct energy-related emissions are to be eliminated and renewable energy sources increased, alongside the maximization of waste co-processing from other industries and the further deployment of carbon capture technologies. 

Another objective is to lower the amount of Portland cement clinker and to review prescriptive water-to-cement ratios.

Individual manufacturers in North America are responding.

LafargeHolcim, the largest cement manufacturer in the U.S., has announced the rebranding of its blended cement and supplementary cementitious materials (SCMs) under the name Envirocore Series.

“We consider it our responsibility to do everything we can to lower the carbon footprint of the cement we produce,” said Patrick Cleary, senior vice-president of sales, US Cement. “This rebrand signifies that the time for change in the building industry is now, and we stand ready to provide these proven solutions.”

Other producers are following suit.

Lehigh Cement has introduced EcoCem PLC, a Portland clinker-limestone interground cement containing 10 per cent more limestone that yields the equivalent performance of ordinary Portland cement.

“Using innovative technology to increase the amount of limestone and decrease the amount of clinker, Lehigh Cement has reduced the energy required to produce EcoCem®PLC as well as associated emissions, making EcoCem®PLC the responsible alternative with a smaller environmental footprint,” the company says.

Carbon capture technology for cement production has also been in the news lately.

A new development from Los Gatos, Calif. company Blue Planet System Corp adds a new twist. Rather than requiring a purification and liquidation step prior to transport to the mixing site, Blue Planet uses CO2 as a raw material to make carbonate rocks. The process converts CO2 from flue gas into carbonate (or CO3=) by contacting CO2-containing gas with a water-based capture solution. The company claims their method is extremely efficient and results in lower costs than traditional methods of CO2 capture.

While Trump’s disengagement from the 2015 Paris Accord may have played well in the U.S with some, the cement and concrete industry is stepping up to the plate to address man-made climate change.

 

John Bleasby is a Coldwater,-Ont. based freelance writer. Send comments and Inside Innovation column ideas to editor@dailycommercialnews.com.

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