Each year, the United Nations convenes a Conference of the Parties (COP) to discuss climate change within the framework of the UNFCCC. The first COP convened in 1995 in Berlin, Germany; since then, COP has occurred each year, hosted by a regional group. COP28 convened from 30 November to 12 December 2023 in Dubai, UAE.
COP28 saw the release of many updated reports marking global progress toward the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050. In the newly released 10 New Insights in Climate Science, carbon dioxide renewal (CDR) is affirmed as one of the most effective approaches to emissions reduction. Heatmap notes that “the report says steadfastly that carbon dioxide removal is essential to meeting our climate goals, and that we need to invest more in CDR technologies to scale them up fast enough.”
Along with commitments to “transitioning out” fossil fuels and promoting new technology like CDR, COP28 marked a number of national collaborations showcasing dedication to decarbonizing key industries. One significant collaboration that was announced at COP28 was the announcement of the Cement & Concrete Breakthrough Initiative, jointly launched by Canada and the UAE with support from countries including Germany, Turkey, Ireland, and the United Kingdom.
The Initiative brings concrete into the 2022 Breakthrough Agenda, created at COP26, which initially focused on five key economic sectors: power, road transport, steel, hydrogen, and agriculture. With the addition of buildings, as well as cement and concrete, the sectors responsible for over 60% of global emissions are now accounted for in the Breakthrough Agenda. These infrastructure inclusions are key toward addressing the hard-to-abate industries that will prevent the achievement of net-zero goals without immediate action.
In Canada, the Breakthrough Initiative is one of many programs enacted by the country in order to reduce the emissions of key hard-to-abate industries like cement and concrete. Canada’s Roadmap to Net-Zero Carbon Concrete by 2050 notes that “Concrete can be part of the decarbonization strategy for all industries given its potential to store CO2. Using synthetic carbonate aggregates, CO2 injection and CO2 curing could turn the 400 million tonnes of concrete used in Canada over the next 5 years to a reservoir for storing nearly 200 million tonnes of CO2 from across industries.”
Along with the Roadmap, Canada has committed to an Action Plan to 2030 outlining the near-term efforts necessary to achieve 2050 targets. The action plan centres on driving Canadian market development, driving innovation and transition within the cement and concrete industry, and positioning Canada as a world leader in the production, adoption, and export of low-carbon cement and concrete products and technologies. Full implementation of Canada’s Roadmap to Net-Zero Carbon Concrete is projected to reduce over 15 Mt of GHGs cumulatively by 2030, with ongoing reductions of more than 4 Mt annually.
At CarbiCrete, hard-to-abate industries like steel and concrete are addressed through the use of innovative CCUS technologies and waste valorization. In the patented CarbiCrete process for manufacturing cement-free concrete, steel slag replaces 100% of cement in the concrete mix. Not only does this eliminate the need for heavily emissive cement use, it provides a valuable life cycle for an industrial waste byproduct that would otherwise be landfilled. The steel slag concrete is then cured via CO2 mineralization, permanently sequestering carbon dioxide within the concrete. With innovations like CarbiCrete’s cement-free concrete, Canada is taking steps in the right direction toward meeting net-zero goals in one of its key breakthrough areas.