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Defining climate-friendly cement for green lead markets: Insights from stakeholder engagement in Germany

Panel: 3. Drivers to change

Meta Thurid Lotz, Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research, Germany
Georg Holtz, Wuppertal Institut für Klima, Umwelt, Energie gGmbH, Germany
Thomas Götz, Wuppertal Institut für Klima, Umwelt, Energie gGmbH, Germany


Green lead markets stimulate the deployment of more sustainable production practices by creating a demand pull for climate-friendly products. However, these products do not necessarily differ from conventional products in their properties but are often more expensive. To overcome this challenge, it is necessary to apply transparent methods and emission thresholds for defining climate-friendly products. For cement, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has made a first proposal for this in the report "Achieving Net Zero Heavy Industry Sectors in G7 Members". For Germany, the proposed definitions were adapted according to national requirements for greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction during a stakeholder process from November 2022 to November 2023 initiated by the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Action. This contribution summarises the outcomes of the stakeholder engagement concerning the method and thresholds in the cement industry.

It is proposed to use the already established product category rules (PCR) of the environmental product declarations (EPD) as method for recording GHG emissions during cement production. The system boundaries of the EPD comprise the production of clinker and cement as well as the production of alternative cement constituents. In contrast to the IEA proposal, GHG emissions from industrial by-products which are used as clinker substitute are also considered in the PCR for the EPD. The consideration of GHG emissions from fossil waste incineration was discussed intensively during the stakeholder process. Including these emissions is advised and included in the IEA proposal considering the reduction of fuel-related emissions. However, emissions from fossil waste-based fuels are not included in the data set of the EPD.

The IEA suggests the determination of emission thresholds for cement depending on the clinker-to-cement ratio, a so-called sliding scale. However, this is not advised, as it does not create an incentive to reduce the use of clinker in cement. Comparable to the IEA, thresholds are proposed for near zero and low emission cements. The latter includes a bandwidth which allows to represent improvements on the way to a more climate friendly product. Consequently, low emission cements can already be produced today if they have a low clinker-to-cement ratio. In contrast, the threshold for near zero, i.e. for a real climate-friendly cement, can presumably only be reached through the additional implementation of carbon capture and storage or utilization (CCUS). Whereas this is not yet possible in Germany due to the current regulatory framework.

The developed definition for climate-friendly cement can be used for the development of measures to create green lead markets. This can be, for example, voluntary labelling or procurement quotas for public construction projects as proposed by the Industrial Deep Decarbonisation Initiative (IDDI). In addition to these quotas, IDDI proposes to consider the entire life cycle and correspondingly also concrete, the downstream product of cement. A definition for climate-friendly concrete can be derived based on the works done for cement. In addition, there are links to the policy development at EU level, such as the definition of minimum requirements for products in the Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation (ESPR) and the Construction Product Regulation (CPR).

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