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Researchers from the think tank Chatham House claim that cement is the source of 8% of the world's CO2 emissions. If the cement industry were a country, it would be the world's third-largest emitter after China and the United States. It contributes more to total CO2 emissions than aviation fuels (2.5%) and is not far behind agriculture (12%).
On the occasion of the UN climate conference COP24 in Poland, representatives of the cement industry discussed how to fulfil the requirements of the Paris Agreement with regards to climate change. This would mean to lower annual emissions caused by cement by at least 16% until 2030. Despite well-known durability issues, cement is still the most widely used construction material.
Asia and China have been responsible for the largest part of its growth since the 1990ies. Production increased more than thirty times since 1950, and almost four times since 1990. Between 2011 and 2013, China consumed more cement than the United States in the entire 20th century. Since Chinese consumption is currently declining, expectations are that the largest growth will shift to Southeast Asia and Africa – driven by the urbanization and economic development there.
Research shows that the global area of erected buildings will double in the next 40 years. It is assumed that this will raise cement production by one fourth until 2030. If the sector wants to fulfil the Paris agreement it has to deal with revising cement production and not only reduce fossil fuels.
It is the process of clinker production – the key component of cement – which emits the largest CO2 volumes during cement production. In 2016, the global cement production amount to roughly 2.2 billion t CO2.