How carbon-intensive industries can scale up CO2 recycling
Jun 13 2021
New technologies that capture and recycle carbon dioxide from industrial processes such as steel and cement making will be vital if the EU is to meet its goal of slashing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030 and down to zero by 2050. However, while solutions are emerging, more work is needed in order to roll them out at scale, experts say.
Some of the biggest polluters — the steel, cement and chemicals industries that account for more than two-thirds of all industrial carbon dioxide emissions in the EU — have already made some progress, cutting emissions by nearly 30% between 1990 and 2018. This was in part thanks to the EU’s flagship climate policy — the Emissions Trading System — which follows the ‘polluter pays’ principle, in which certain industries pay for a (capped) emissions allowance for each tonne of CO2-equivalent they inject into the atmosphere.
This approach has tried to disincentivise the use of fossil fuels by charging a little bit for emissions — but it isn’t enough and it isn’t fast enough, says Stuart Haszeldine, professor of carbon capture and storage at the University of Edinburgh, UK.
‘The policies we’ve got at the moment are good for starting off on the journey, but they … definitely don’t get to the end point of the journey. There are ways of achieving these goals, but we haven’t been bold enough to do them.’
Instead of dealing with the messy output, the cleanest way to cutting greenhouse emissions is to use renewable electricity as the main energy source — but this isn’t always feasible. Planting trees to suck up carbon from the atmosphere could be another crucial piece of the puzzle, but it’s a slow and steady kind of solution, one that will take years and scale, to bring meaningful change.