Climate Change

Tackling the harder-to-abate sectors: join the conversation on 7 July

An employee works at the production line of aluminium rolls at a factory in Zouping, Shandong province, China November 23, 2019.

Heavy industries like the aluminium sector have a big role to play in curbing global emissions Image: REUTERS/Stringer

Anthony Robert Hobley
Executive Fellow, Strategic Engagement, Centre for Nature and Climate, World Economic Forum Geneva
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Climate Change

This article is part of: Virtual Industry Transition Day
  • The harder-to-abate sectors have a vital role to play in meeting the Paris Agreement targets.
  • We can achieve zero-emissions in these industries - but has COVID-19 thrown a spanner in the works, or opened up opportunities for a Great Reset?
  • Join the conversation with civic, business and political leaders at the Virtual Industry Transition Day on 7 July to be part of these industries' race to zero.

Heavy industry (cement, steel, chemicals and aluminium) and heavy-duty transport (shipping, trucking and aviation) are together responsible for nearly one-third of global CO2 emissions - and this percentage is expected to double under business-as-usual scenarios. As such, these sectors have a vital role to play in halting global average temperature rises if the world is to meet the Paris climate agreement objective of limiting global warming to well below 2°C by 2050.

These economic sectors are referred to as 'harder-to-abate', not because we lack the technological solutions but because these solutions carry a higher abatement cost that current higher-carbon technologies. However, the Energy Transition Commission’s Mission Possible report outlines how it is technically and - with the right support - economically possible for hard-to-abate industrial sectors to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 at a cost to the economy of less than 0.5% of global GDP and with minor impact on consumer living standards. Indeed, as the relevant clean technologies scale, these costs will come down as we are seeing with other transitions already underway such as the energy transition.

Building a zero-carbon economy will require public and private collaboration, spearheaded by coalitions of the ambitious. These collaborations between leading countries and industry groups is critical for establishing workable policy frameworks and incentives, and to enable joint investment into low-carbon infrastructure. Policy-makers, investors and businesses must take immediate and bold action if these industries are to successfully decarbonize.

Image: Energy Transitions Commission's Mission Possible report

The Mission Possible Platform, convened by the World Economic Forum in partnership with the Energy Transitions Commission, supports public and private sector partners working on the industry transition towards net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. It is comprised of a range of alliances and initiatives built upon leadership groups of the most ambitious companies from each of the harder-to-abate sectors: aviation, circular cars, heavy-duty road transport, shipping, aluminium, chemicals, cement and concrete, and iron and steel, each working on technological, financial and policy solutions.

However, COVID-19 has had a major impact on these industries. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has said airlines could suffer a loss of $113 billion as a result of COVID-19, with other sectors suffering similar loses with less people driving, travelling, working and just functioning. In order to maintain the momentum on this critical work, the Mission Possible Platform and the World Economic Forum, in partnership with Mission Innovation and the Leadership Group on Industry Transition, are convening the Virtual Industry Transition Day on Tuesday 7th of July.

This day will hold a series of virtual, live-streamed public dialogues, where representatives of government, business and civil society will outline the challenges and opportunities that 2020 has presented. What is the scale of the problem and how can industries transition to net zero be accelerated? What technologies should investors be looking at to ensure a more resilient economy across the materials and mobility sectors? What synergies exist across industry sectors in terms of energy, finance, the circular economy and innovation? What can be done to ensure a truly green recovery for these industrial sectors? And what safeguards must be put in place to create a more just society?

Join the conversation during Industry Transition Day on 7th July, 09:00 – 18:00 CET/Geneva time. All dialogues will be livestreamed on the Forum website.

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