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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL)


25 April 2019 – A new report supported by the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) outlines multiple pathways for European energy-intensive industries to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, whilst remaining competitive at a global level.

These are some of the conclusions of a new report carried out by the consultancy Material Economics, supported by the Wuppertal Institute and the Institute for European Studies and commissioned by the European Climate Foundation together with CISL and other organisations working for the alignment of climate and industrial policies.  

The Industrial sectors, including steel, chemicals, and cement account for about 14 per cent of Europe’s annual emissions. While other sectors are accelerating their emissions reductions, the share of emissions from heavy industry will increase dramatically under business as usual. Therefore the decarbonisation of heavy industry has a key role to play in order to fulfil the EU’s commitments to cutting carbon emissions and meeting Paris agreement targets.

According to the report, there are multiple possible pathways the EU could pursue to reach the full decarbonisation of its heavy industry like steel, cement, chemicals by 2050, including:  

  • A more circular economy, with better materials efficiency throughout value chains. 
  • Reusing materials that have already been produced can also achieve large emissions reductions. By 2050, 70 per cent of steel and plastics could be produced using recycled feedstock.
  • Innovations in new clean production processes and significant increases in renewable energy production will help enable deeper reductions over time.
  • Carbon capture and storage/use.

The report concludes that national and European policymakers should urgently develop a comprehensive and integrated industrial climate policy strategy that ensures companies remain profitable in the transition to a net-zero and circular industrial future.

Eliot Whittington, Director of Policy at CISL said: 

“This report clearly sets out that a zero carbon future is not only possible for key industries in Europe, it is also achievable and affordable. It presents more clear evidence that the European Commission’s “A clean planet for all” strategy is the right vision for the EU, and that member states should commit to it and start exploring the required actions to deliver on it. For example, to realise the potential futures set out in the report will require resolve and innovative action on all sides. Business and policy makers will need to work together to answer critical questions such as how new circular economy business models can be created, how the cost of innovations in industry will be shared and how much should the Europe invest in CCS development.”

The report has been co-funded by the following organisations: Climate Kic, Energy Transitions Commission, CISL and Sitra.

Read the full report.



Zoe Kalus, Head of Media  

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