How the industrial sector can accomplish 'zero carbon' production

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With the Climate Group having launched its Energy Transition Platform, aimed at supporting the governments of highly-industrialised countries to develop and implement clean energy policies, a recent article on the Climate Group website assessed what opportunities and hurdles the industrial sector faces in its bid to become zero carbon.
 
As the article explains, energy-intensive industries have suffered from reduced demand as a result of the global economic downturn. This has led to steel and cement industries, for example, struggling with over capacity and often having to shut down plants.
These difficult times require an overhaul of outdated and insufficient technology.
 
Following the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement, it is widely accepted that global carbon dioxide emissions will have to reach 'net zero' as early as 2070, if we are to limit global warming to the target of below two degrees Celsius. Again, this can only be achieved if all sectors and countries commit to completely transforming their existing energy systems.
 
Certain policies and measures introduced since the Kyoto protocol was signed in 1997 have been effective at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Add to this advancements in battery technology, cost-effective electric cars and more affordable renewable energy, and it's clear where progress has been made.
 
However, progress within the industrial sector remains slow, and it still accounts for more than third (37%) of total global energy consumption. This means a zero-carbon industrial sector won't be easy to achieve.
 
One of the main obstacles is the wide range of products and processes used by the industry, making it difficult to find broad, crosscutting solutions. Secondly, some industrial processes - such as cement manufacturing - produce carbon dioxide as a by-product. Thirdly, retrofits to manufacturing plants are often insufficient to upgrade energy efficiency to its full potential; and finally, industrial products have to be competitive, which limits businesses and makes low-carbon technologies uneconomical.
 
Zero carbon production will require the development of alternative zero carbon processes, along with significant advancement of carbon capture and storage (CCS) for industry. These new industrial processes call for large upfront investment with no promise of returns.
 
Governments must help provide funding for research and development, as well as setting up clear, long-term policies to provide more clarity on the issue, and collaborating with other sectors and countries.
 
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