Greener steel for a cleaner planet

At the G7 Conference last weekend, climate change was high on the agenda.  

The G7 leaders reaffirmed their commitment to net zero carbon emissions by 2050, halving collective emissions by 2030. Boris Johnson called for a global “Green Industrial Revolution” to support clean energy growth. 

Speaking to the conference, Sir David Attenborough reminded delegates that we already have the skills and technology necessary to tackle climate change, all that is required is the global will to do so.  

As we are all too aware, we are in a climate crisis. It is abundantly clear that the window to ensure that our planet is safe and habitable for future generations is fast closing. 

We know that pollution is a problem. In 2018, air pollution was the cause of 8.7 million deaths globally. Pollution is a root cause of increasing rates of asthma and other respiratory illnesses as well as heart disease and even loss of eyesight. 

There is no magic bullet solution to eradicating pollution and solving the climate crisis, but more everyone collectively doing their bit to change and improve the way we live. Our steel industry is one such example of this. 

Green steel has the potential to better the air we breathe and the planet we live on. 

The global steel market is currently worth an estimated $2.5 trillion and produces 9% of global emissions. We know that now is the time to commit to a greener steel industry and be at the forefront of a just transition as part of our economic strategy to save the planet and save vital jobs. 

With the UK’s two blast-furnace based producers coming to a key point in their long investment cycle, now is the time for a transformative surge in investment to secure the sector’s future as a world-leader in green streel, based on an ambitious, credible industrial pathway toward decarbonisation.  

This could be done through hydrogen steelmaking, carbon capture and storage (CSS), and Electric Arc Furnaces, to support both primary and secondary (scrap iron) steel production.   

The HYBRIT plant in Sweden, based on investment by the Swedish government and a Finnish publicly-owned steelmaker, is on the path to becoming one of the first net-zero steel producers globally. 

There is no doubt a strong and sustainable British steel industry is vital for delivering our climate objectives. Building back better and greener is going to require millions of tonnes of steel, and government must back us to seize this one-off opportunity.  

The Government’s Clean Steel Fund, launched before the 2019 General Election, is a step in the right direction. Yet even this will not begin to be distributed until 2023 and does not go nearly far enough.  

Greening our steel industry will cost billions and the fund needs to be massively expanded, and we are still waiting for the government to clarify how the fund is going to work. 

The choice is clear because either we make the steels here, supporting tens of thousands of good jobs, or we can offshore those jobs and rely on high-carbon imports from countries playing by different rules. Steel sections produced within the U.K. result in 50% less CO2 emitted than steel sections sourced from the EU. 

A commitment to green steel could create jobs, protect communities and save lives. It is abundantly clear that for the air we breathe and the planet we live on, we cannot afford any further delay. 


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