In an era where sustainability is paramount, the ‘green transition’ has become more than a buzzword—it’s a vital goal for industries worldwide. This article delves into the critical role of zero-emission materials in shaping a sustainable future. Whether it’s electric vehicles, energy-efficient buildings, or renewable energy infrastructure, the journey towards sustainability is incomplete without focusing on the materials that make up these innovations. We explore how advancing the green transition through sustainable materials is not just a necessity but an opportunity to reshape our environmental impact and pave the way for a cleaner, greener planet.
The Importance of Zero-Emission Materials
In the pursuit of sustainability, electric cars, eco-friendly buildings, and windmills need to be constructed from materials that emit zero emissions. The production of such materials, however, comes with its own set of challenges, affecting the environment, climate, and social conditions. Thus, enhancing the traceability and transparency of the environmental footprint of each material is essential for fostering rapid change.
Driving Demand for Sustainable Materials
As the world embarks on a green transition, the demand for materials like aluminium, steel, and cement is on the rise. These materials are crucial for building infrastructure that supports this ecological shift. However, the production process and location are significant factors, as all manufacturing processes leave an environmental footprint. Presently, these materials account for about a quarter of global carbon emissions, predominantly produced using fossil fuels. To achieve true sustainability, not only do vehicles need to be electric and buildings energy-efficient, but the materials used in their construction must also be decarbonized. To reach net-zero emissions, we must accelerate the green transformation of the materials sector and enable consumers to make environmentally conscious decisions. This calls for enhanced traceability and transparency in understanding the carbon footprint of products.
Sustainable Production and Market Influence
The construction of tomorrow’s greener infrastructure will require more and diverse raw materials, like lighter aluminium. By 2030, the demand for aluminium, a key component in this transition, is expected to surge.
Market leaders are now shifting focus from just the material properties to the embedded emissions during the entire lifecycle of the products. To combat the climate crisis, it’s crucial to consider not only the emissions during the usage phase but also those embedded during production. This involves rethinking the production of raw materials used in these technologies, ensuring they are as sustainable and responsible as possible.
Investing in emission reduction along the value chain is costly, particularly in sectors that are difficult to make environmentally friendly. Therefore, there’s a need for awareness, demand, and willingness to invest in products that are produced with additional care to foster a low-carbon, circular economy.
Shaping a Greener Future
As an aluminium producer, we’re witnessing positive trends as we strive to influence the market towards greener products. Consumers, regulatory bodies, and the society are increasingly focusing on full value chain emissions in market products.
Customers are seeking material suppliers who not only provide low-emission aluminium today but also have credible plans for achieving net-zero emissions. Industry leaders are forming strategic partnerships to develop joint roadmaps and push the limits of what’s possible and affordable. However, it takes more than just pioneers to create a movement. There needs to be a wider market demand and regulatory incentives to encourage greener investments and discourage the status quo on a large scale. If consumers cannot distinguish between high-carbon and zero-carbon products, how can they make informed decisions or justify paying more for the eco-friendly option?
Competing for the Lowest Footprint
Industries have long competed over costs. Now, they must adopt a similar approach towards minimizing climate emissions, environmental and social impacts.
To foster real competition for the lowest footprint, new strategies are required. Full transparency about the production footprint of each product is essential. Just as we have detailed insights into a car’s emissions during use, consumers should have the same level of understanding of the production emissions. Considering that a car comprises roughly 30,000 components, each with its own emission profile, this becomes even more critical. In cars, steel, aluminium, and plastics alone make up over 80% of the embedded emissions. Thus, selecting materials carefully and maintaining transparency is key.
Various industries, from organic foods to tyres, have developed standardized certifications and reporting methods. However, the metals industry still faces challenges in calculating and disclosing carbon footprints along the value chain, particularly for recycled aluminium scrap. This lack of standardization can lead to greenwashing, distorting the market for genuinely greener products, and contributing to misinformation among consumers.
Transparency: The Catalyst for Change
Transparency is not optional if we understand its potential to drive better solutions and accelerate progress. Consumers need accessible information about a product’s footprint to make informed choices, similar to how they choose low-fat or low-carb foods based on labels. They should have the right to select products made with low-carbon metals and materials. Consumer demand is precisely what will drive producers to meet these new standards.
For meaningful change and incentives to minimize negative production impacts, reporting production emissions should be mandatory. Transparency around recycled content and accurate measurement of carbon footprints is vital to combat greenwashing and promote a truly circular, low-carbon economy.
As material producers, we hold the key to future-proofing the building blocks of modern life. That’s why we, at Hydro, are leading the way in the green transition, aiming for ‘zero’ and shaping markets for greener products. Ultimately, market demand is crucial for this transformation to succeed.
Shaping Africa’s Future at the Energy Transition Centre
As we embark on a critical journey towards a sustainable energy future, your involvement is crucial. The Energy Transition Centre at Centurion Law Group is at the forefront of transforming Africa’s energy landscape, advocating for an energy mix, including renewable energy adoption to foster economic growth and improve quality of life. We invite you to join us in this essential mission. Whether you’re an industry expert, a policy maker, or a concerned citizen, your contribution can make a significant difference. For guidance, insights, or to share your ideas, feel free to contact the Energy Transition Centre today with questions:
- Oneyka Ojogbo, Head of Energy Transition Centre: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Leon van Der Merwe, Head of Energy Transition Centre: email@example.com
- Brenda Wangura: firstname.lastname@example.org
Together, we can shape a brighter, more sustainable future.
Author: Memoona Tawfiq