Destination beyond net zero

By Chris Leese, director, UK Concrete

From carbon capture, use and storage, to new hydrogen networks and low carbon cement manufacturing, the UK’s journey to net zero needs new technologies on an industrial scale - plus no shortage of ambition.    

The UK concrete and cement industry’s Roadmap to Beyond Net Zero is reflective of the scale of the opportunity and challenge.  To my knowledge it is the first industry-wide beyond net zero roadmap for concrete and cement produced anywhere in the world.  

We are under no illusion about the action required or the very real threat of climate change. However, a UK concrete and cement industry which is net negative and removes more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than it emits each year is achievable by 2050. 

It’s a fact that the UK industry has taken early action against climate change and is on a trajectory which has seen it cut carbon faster than the UK economy as a whole.  Despite this there remains an awful lot of mistruths about concrete and its ‘problems’ that vested interests would have us all believe that concrete creates for our natural world.  

We really need a far more informed and intelligent conversation about the materials we use across the built environment. Our roadmap is part of that process because its honest, detailed and sets our direction of travel.  Delivering net zero undoubtedly requires more action and the wholesale decarbonisation of all aspects of concrete and cement production, supply and use.  

We appreciate that this must be underpinned by innovation, investment in low carbon energy infrastructure, transport and storage, cross-industry partnership, behavioural change and Government support.  

Concrete and cement are essential materials to our economy, society and way of life. Both are inherently local materials – and a key part of a combined mineral products industry, which contributes around £18bn to the UK’s GDP and directly employs 74,000 people while supporting a further 3.5m jobs. 

This roadmap shows that they can be part of a fully functioning net zero economy which can help retain this economic value in the UK, support highly skilled jobs and tackle climate change. With a credible plan for concrete in place, wider society will be able to benefit from net zero concrete as well as the material’s existing qualities of fire protection, resilience and durability. 

In the UK our Government has a binding legal target to deliver net zero.  Our UK concrete and cement industry now has a credible and transparent roadmap which sets our direction to get to this destination. It is a journey which will include industrial scale decarbonisation, innovation and ambition all the way.