Zero industrial emissions in the EU possible but costly – report

zero industrial emissions in the eu
© iStock/Hramovnick

A new report has said industrial emissions across the EU could feasibly be reduced to net zero by 2050, but that the process will cost up to €50 billion per year.

The Industrial Transformation 2050 study, commissioned by sustainable management consultancy firm Material Economics by the European Climate Foundation, a non-profit group devoted to mitigating the effects of climate change, examined a variety of potential actions to decrease levels of greenhouse gas emissions produced in industrial processes, including the production of steel, ammonia and cement, in the EU. Researchers examined climate change solutions including carbon capture and storage; circular business models to improve materials efficiency; and new low emission materials production processes.

The study highlighted the importance of safeguarding industrial competitiveness while working toward the ultimate target of achieving net zero industrial emissions in the EU, noting that implementing circular strategies and lowering emissions in accordance with net zero goals will mean the core processes involved in industrial materials production could become 20 to 115 per cent more costly than today. The report also drew attention to the additional costs surrounding materials production processes, in particular the electricity needed in industry, saying: “A more circular economy and affordable electricity are among the most important factors to keep overall costs low.”

Every option examined in the study necessitated an increase in capital expenditure. While the current baseline investment in core industrial production is between €4.9 billion and €5.6 billion per year, in order to achieve net zero industrial emissions in the EU investment must rise to around €12 billion to €14 billion per year by 2030 and €40 to €50 billion per year by 2050. The study also emphasised the need for strong, effectively enforced governmental policy to reduce emissions, as well as cultivating innovation to develop new, low-emission production processes.

European Climate Foundation CEO Laurence Tubiana said: “Energy intensive industries are the backbone of the European economy and are well placed to deliver key inputs to the low-carbon transition. In previously conservative sectors, we now see front-runners that are really envisioning different production models and technologies – including zero-carbon aluminium, steel, gas, and automobiles. The phase when abatement of emissions from industry was considered impossible is over. Industry leaders are looking at totally disruptive technologies and visions.”

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