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Climate Change

How to Cut Steel Industry’s CO2 Emissions & Climate Threat

RMI reveals product-level carbon accounting guidance, giving corporations and steel companies the power to accelerate decarbonization of a sector contributing ~7 percent of global greenhouse gases.

RMI’s Climate Intelligence has released guidance for steel companies to report and reduce the greenhouse gas emissions impact of their products, giving them a competitive advantage as the preferred suppliers to corporations with ambitious climate targets. The guidance has been developed through a collaboration between RMI and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). Product-level guidance for steel emissions is essential for removing the confusion and complexity that has stalled decarbonization of this high-emitting industrial material. The steel industry accounts for 7 percent of global greenhouse gases (GHG), if it were a country, its emissions would rank the third highest in the world. Its emissions would rank the third highest in the world.

The emissions reduction accounting guidance is a foundational element of RMI’s Horizon Zero project, accelerating the decarbonization of supply chains by making it possible to understand the GHG emissions impact of what companies are buying and selling.

The emissions reduction accounting guidance is a foundational element of RMI’s Horizon Zero project, accelerating the decarbonization of supply chains by making it possible to understand the GHG emissions impact of what companies are buying and selling.

Steel product-level emissions reporting allows purchasers, investors, and other stakeholders to understand the decarbonization strategies they can collaboratively use to reduce steel sector climate impacts:

  1. Increasing scrap — Steelmakers can demonstrate support for recycling by reporting on the recycled content of their products to the extent possible given the global scrap supply.
  2. Deploying low-emissions ore processing technology — Incorporating low-emissions technologies such as green hydrogen-based reduction will result in measurable emissions reductions. This will be reflected in the ore-based supply chain segment’s emissions reporting, helping to differentiate sustainable steel manufacturers’ products.
  3. Using zero-emissions electricity — Incorporating renewables in manufacturing processes will further reduce scrap-based emissions due to the large and increasing portion of this material that is processed in electric-arc furnaces.

“The Steel Emissions Reporting Guidance highlights a critically important difference in emissions from ore-based and scrap-based manufacturing, which account for 93 percent and 7 percent of steel industry emissions respectively. Increasing the market share of scrap-based steel is needed for climate action, but supply is limited and relies on recycling end-of-life material. We need to have clear emissions calculations that can support both increased recycling and deployment of new technologies,” said Lachlan Wright, the steel sector lead for RMI’s Horizon Zero project.

The guidance is particularly relevant to the global automotive industry as major players move to reduce their supply chain emissions in addition to accelerating development of electric vehicles.

“Steel makes up 20 percent of emissions in the automotive sector, and connecting these emissions is a crucial step in driving decarbonization. With this draft guidance now available for public comment, we can ensure we are working towards a carbon accounting system which enables companies to truly measure and decrease their primary emissions — a key goal we are driving with the Partnership for Carbon Transparency” said Anna Stanley, Director, Climate Transparency at WBCSD.

If successfully implemented at scale, the steel product level emissions accounting guidance will accelerate the use of lower emissions steel throughout the global economy — including the infrastructure required to build a clean energy future.

© 2021 Rocky Mountain Institute. Published with permission. Originally posted on RMI Outlet.

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Since 1982, RMI (previously Rocky Mountain Institute) has advanced market-based solutions that transform global energy use to create a clean, prosperous and secure future. An independent, nonprofit think-and-do tank, RMI engages with businesses, communities and institutions to accelerate and scale replicable solutions that drive the cost-effective shift from fossil fuels to efficiency and renewables. Please visit for more information.


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