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Steel stays committed to achieving net-zero carbon

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The UK has been a leader internationally in committing itself to carbon reduction targets and was hailed in 2019 for introducing a legally binding target of net-zero carbon by 2050. Since then, others have passed laws designed to achieve net-zero by 2050, including Japan, Canada, Korea and New Zealand, and the UK has further committed to interim targets to reduce emissions by 78% by 2035.

Recent heatwaves and drought conditions across Europe have heightened the sense that the planet could be in the last chance saloon to prevent global temperatures rising to unsustainable levels that would make some places virtually uninhabitable, turn once fertile areas into desert and flood others as sea levels rise. At the same time economic and political pressures on governments have led some to question whether net-zero by 2050 is achievable.

Nobody could have expected the path to net-zero would be smooth, with much depending on anticipated, albeit realistic, developments in technology and continuing political commitment. The latter factor is crucial because initiatives introduced to reduce carbon emissions will have to be paid for, and central governments will have to shoulder the burden of raising most of the money.

Several recent developments have raised the question of whether carbon reduction will be shelved for a number of years as the world deals with supply chain issues, inflation, possible recession and the fallout of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and other factors that have driven up energy prices. BCSA President Mark Denham makes the very good point in his column in this issue of NSC that basic industries that the world depends on to make modern civilisation possible – like steel – will need government support if they are to be able to survive, let alone pay for the high investments needed for initiatives that will ‘green’ the steel supply chain.

All along the steel supply chain however we can see evidence that the resolve of the industry to play its essential role in the climate change battle is undiminished. In News this month we have a story from British Steel that it has followed up publication of a Low Carbon Roadmap that sets out the decarbonisation challenge it faces, reveals the targets it has set itself and how it intends to achieve them, with a Pocket Guide that summarises the journey this major steel manufacturer has already embarked on.

Other steel manufacturers supplying the UK market have also adopted policies designed to support the government’s net-zero carbon drive. Steelwork contractors and others in construction teams are committed to playing their part. Across the UK steel-framed structures of all types are achieving BREEAM ‘Excellent’ ratings and previously constructed buildings are being designed to achieve net-zero after being repurposed.

New regulations that could cut emissions from buildings by up to 80% from 2020 levels are expected by 2025, and steel buildings can confidently be predicted to be among the first to show how this can be done. The BCSA will shortly produce a revised Sustainability Charter to allow members to demonstrate their commitment, and existing carbon measurement tools are being refined. Despite the current setbacks and worries, the constructional steelwork sector remains committed to achieving net-zero carbon.

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