Failure to act soon could mean exhausting the remaining carbon budget—the maximum amount of CO2 that can be released and still limit global warming to 1.5°C—by as early as 2028. In 2015, world leaders agreed to keep warming to within 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, which would limit the worst environmental effects such as floods, droughts, extreme heatwaves, food scarcity, and biodiversity loss.
A business-as-usual approach to material production, which accounts for a quarter of global emissions, could contribute to warming of up to 2.5 °C. Current industry net zero roadmaps are projected to still not meet the target, resulting in warming of up to 2 °C. Early adoption of proven emission reduction practices, such as the decarbonisation of energy grids, should be made a priority in the near term, as the impact of deploying technologies after 2030 will be substantially less effective.
More key findings of the report ‘Is Net Zero Enough for the Materials Sector?’:
- Significant capital investment is needed to achieve electricity decarbonisation in the aluminium sector.
- The cement and concrete sectors rely heavily on unproven technologies to reduce CO2 emissions.
- Retrofitting existing systems in the iron and steel sectors with the best available efficiency technologies provides the greatest emissions reduction and could be implemented immediately.
- Remaining within their carbon budget will be a significant challenge for the plastics industry, as a drastic shift away from fossil fuels to bio-based materials is needed.