skip to primary navigationskip to content

Sustainable steel manufacturing

January 2019: Achieving climate change goals will require decarbonising the steel industry, since it is one of the largest CO2 emitters. A shift towards greener but still experimental technologies such as the use of hydrogen as a reductant agent could fully decarbonise the steel industry. However, concerns remain over the economic feasibility of new steel making technologies.


The steel industry is one of the oldest global industries, highly monolithic and steel is the second largest traded commodity after oil. It is also the largest CO2 emitting industry and responsible for seven to nine per cent of all direct emissions from fossil fuels. At its core, blast furnaces rely on coke to smelt iron into liquid metal which is then refined into steel. However, several new but experimental technologies offer the potential to create ‘green’ steel. Examples of these technologies are that steel makers can reduce their raw material input by using more scrap metal or technologies that use hydrogen as a reductant agent. Second, end-of-pipe technologies enable blast furnaces to capture and store carbon that is then re-used during the smelting process. Thirdly, the use of electric arc furnaces allows the melting down of scrap metal and production of lower grade steel.

Implications & Opportunities

Achieving climate change goals will depend on the decarbonisation of the steel industry. A shift towards ‘greener’ technologies could potentially fully decarbonise the steel industry. However, concerns remain over the economic feasibility of new steel making technologies, especially given the volatility of the globally traded market. Further, the decarbonisation of steel will depend on its coupling with the renewable energy sector.  


Most technologies for ‘green’ steel remain in their experimental stage. Therefore, the commercialisation and widespread application of such technologies is only predicted for 2030. Further, decarbonising steel requires a global effort to avoid trade imbalances and the import of cheaper, but ‘grey’ steel.

Our related work

Low carbon transformation

Climate change

Share this

RSS Feed Latest news

Manulife Investment Management becomes newest member of CISL’s Investment Leaders Group

Oct 09, 2020

9 October 2020 – Manulife Investment Management is the latest organisation to join the Investment Leaders Group (ILG), a voluntary member initiative striving to create an investment chain that prioritises economic, social and environmental sustainability. The ILG is convened by the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL).

View all news


Adele Wiliams

| T: +44 (0)1223 768451


The views expressed in these external research papers are those of the authors and do not represent an official position of CISL, the University of Cambridge, or any of its individual business partners or clients.