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04 Jul 23 | 3 min read

Justin Wilkes, Executive Director at ECOS, on why it’s time to bust the myth about decarbonising cement

Justin Wilkes, Executive Director at ECOS

Cement is everywhere. And yet, concerningly, many fail to notice its environmental impact.

In the face of a huge climate challenge, we’ve united a group of industry leaders and innovators to form the Alliance for Low-Carbon Cement & Concrete to start shaping a sustainable future, today. Together our aim is to drive the rapid decarbonisation of the cement industry by demonstrating real and immediate solutions.  

The cement industry represents one of the most carbon-intensive economic sectors, responsible for a staggering 7-8% of global emissions. The main culprit of these emissions is the production of clinker, the key ingredient from which cement and concrete derive their binding properties.

Cement’s carbon problem

  • Cement is responsible for almost 8% of global CO2 emissions
  • Global cement production reach 4.4bn tonnes in 2021 while the world consumed 30bn tonnes of concrete
  • Rising demand could push annual output closer to 5bn tonnes by 2030
  • A New York-sized city will be built every month over the next four decades – increasing concrete production by 45%
  • Urgent action is needed at an EU level in order to meet Europe’s climate goals of a 55% reduction by 2030, climate neutrality by 2050, and to contribute to ensure energy security


ECOS, an international environmental NGO, has been instrumental in advocating for better cement and concrete standards by contributing to the development of new cement standards EN 197-5 and EN 197-6. While both break down (some) barriers for several specific low-carbon solutions, more and bolder action is urgently needed: the current incremental pace of standards reform is too slow for the climate emergency we are facing.

Not surprisingly, clinker substitution is generally seen as a promising lever for decarbonisation. It allows for considerable reductions to the industry’s footprint in the short term at near-zero costs. 

Innovative low-carbon cement technologies, like Ecocem’s ACT, which can deliver up to 70% reduction in emissions, are ready to be deployed at scale. But current  policy, regulatory and financial frameworks are not keeping up.

This is why ALCCC actively advocates for a major overhaul of the cement and concrete standards in Europe, through the adoption of performance-based standards that open the door to the market uptake of low-carbon solutions. Such a shift would create a level-playing field for low-carbon solutions, which could potentially slice the industry’s emissions by half, as demonstrated in a new report by ALCCC.

The first signs of change are already in view. Our message has clearly been heard by the European Commission, which has just launched the CPR acquisition process on cement, aimed at developing a performance-based cement standard for all common cements. This is an important first step towards a net-zero cement and concrete value chain!

About the Alliance for Low-Carbon Cement & Concrete

Our Alliance was created to steer the sector towards viable decarbonisation pathways. Our members represent mature materials designers and producers, and also start-ups working in biotechnology, capturing carbon, and sustainable construction.

We are all rooted in the circular economy and sustainable construction, and we all share the desire to change our industry – and prevent a catastrophic climate change.

The Alliance members include Arup, Biomason,  C2CA, Concrete4Change, Ecocem, ECOS, ecoLockedForterraHoffmann Green Cement, Resourcefull, and Terra CO2. The Alliance is supported by Breakthrough Energy.

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