Options for achieving a 50% cut in industrial carbon emissions by 2050

Carbon emissions from industry are dominated by production of goods in steel, cement, plastic, paper, and aluminum. Demand for these materials is anticipated to double at least by 2050, by which time global carbon emissions must be reduced by at least 50%. To evaluate the challenge of meeting this target, the global flows of these materials and their associated emissions are projected to 2050 under five technical scenarios. A reference scenario includes all existing and emerging efficiency measures but cannot provide sufficient reduction. The application of carbon sequestration to primary production proves to be sufficient only for cement. The emissions target can always be met by reducing demand, for instance through product life extension, material substitution, or 'light-weighting'. Reusing components shows significant potential particularly within construction. Radical process innovation may also be possible. The results show that the first two strategies, based on increasing primary production, cannot achieve the required emissions reductions, so should be balanced by the vigorous pursuit of material efficiency to allow provision of increased material services with reduced primary production.

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