Concrete is the most widely consumed manmade material on Earth, used across our built environment in buildings, roads, bridges and more. Portland cement, concrete’s common binding agent, makes up just 10-15% of the material’s mass but accounts for 80-90% of its emissions. Together, the scale at which it is used in the modern world and how emissions intensive it is to produce make cement a top source of climate pollution, responsible for about one-quarter of all industrial emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and roughly 7-8% of global CO2 emissions.
Like power and transportation, decarbonizing the cement industry, alongside other industrial sub-sectors like steel, is critical to achieving a net-zero emissions economy. But unlike the internal combustion engine, materials like cement and steel have no readily available replacement and will continue to form the basis of our towns and cities for the next decades—the timeframe most critical to climate action.