Steel's Net Zero mission
Steel Insights|November 2021
The country’s commitment to achieving Net Zero within a targeted timeframe will now propel its steel sector towards a sustainable future in line with global trends.
Sumit Maitra

The country’s commitment to achieving Net Zero within a targeted timeframe will now propel its steel sector towards a sustainable future in line with global trends. Major global steelmakers have all chalked out their own Net Zero path by creating a roadmap to bring down emission, raise recycling, improve efficiency and make the steelmaking processes and mining activities environment friendly.

And Indian Prime Minister’s recent commitment to achieve Net Zero by 2070 would now accelerate the sector’s decarbonisation initiative, Sheshagiri Rao, Joint Managing Director & Group CFO, JSW Steel Ltd, said.

“The entire world is moving towards energy transition and our Prime Minister in the COP26 has also made a very important announcement that India will become Net Zero carbon emissions by 2070. So, the need for the Indian steel industry to look at decarbonization at a much faster pace than what we are doing right now,” Rao said at the Global Steel Summit 2021.

“India has now joined the growing list of countries that have made Net Zero commitments to be reached somewhere between 2050 and 2070. With the decision of India, close to a hundred percent of global steelmaking capacities are now situated in countries that already have made Net Zero announcements. So we as an industry have to also step up and reduce our CO2 emissions,” Dr Edwin Basson, Director General, WorldSteel Association said during the event.

Entered into force in 2015 by 195 countries, the Paris Agreement set out the target to limit global warming to well below 2°C and pursue efforts to further limit it to 1.5°C. The Paris Agreement is a bridge between today’s policies and climate neutrality before the end of the century. Governments agreed to reduce emissions and achieve a balance between emissions and removals in the second half of the century – which is the very definition of carbon neutrality.

To become Net Zero, companies must calculate their carbon footprint, reduce their current emissions to the point where it reaches a balance, and neutralise what they cannot reduce with carbon offsets. The remaining emissions can be offset through reforestation of degraded areas or purchase of carbon credits.

India’s role in championing the sustainability journey of the steel industry has been recognized by World Steel Association with two Indian groups– Tata Steel and JSW – featuring prominently in the list of nine Steel Sustainability Champions of 2021.

“Sustainability is a core business requirement, vital to a company’s continuing license to operate. An ethical and socially responsible approach can act as a competitive advantage for forward-thinking steel companies,” said WSA in its latest report on sustainability indicators.

“There is little doubt in our mind today that steel has a very important role to play in supporting the sustainability of the modern society. The key task ahead for all of us is to address the climate change challenges before us. Steel already has a lower CO2 footprint than most of its competing materials. But our industry is planning for the future production of steel with lower carbon emissions,” Dr Basson said.

“As the repercussions of climate change become stronger at all levels, our products and processes have been put under the magnifying glass. I think it is time for all of us to ask ourselves this question: in aiding the progress of society, are we building a better and cleaner future?” Sajjan Jindal said after assuming the charges of the chairman of WSA in October.

Sustainability roadmap

It is possible for the steel industry to support and meet the 1.5°C goals as set out in Paris in 2015, according to Dr. Basson.

This will happen in three phases. Phase 1 will initially need to rely on

improved efficiency in making and using steel. In Phase 2, accelerating towards the end of this decade will benefit from the growing availability of scrap in China and other developing economies. This will allow for a larger portion of global production to rely on recycled scrap and so reduce the average CO2 intensity in the industry.

In the third phase, the focus will be on using hydrogen and new methods to reduce the CO2 intensity of industry further.

For achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, there is a need to adopt a multi-track approach to develop super-innovative technologies, focusing on carbon recycling blast furnace + CCU and hydrogen ironmaking (direct reduction)and maximize utilization of industry-leading electric arc furnace technology, Yoshihisa Kitano, President and CEO, JFE Steel Corp said.

“We want to replace coking coal with green hydrogen. Just like it can replace petroleum in vehicles, green hydrogen can also be used instead of coking coal in steel making. This is very important for safeguarding the ecology,” Nitin Gadkari, Minister for Road Transport & Highways, said recently.

Global best practices

Cooperation among steelmakers on Net Zero

Global steelmakers are working on collaborative efforts towards achieving Net Zero by sharing technologies and expertise while reviewing product strategy in response to the accelerating decarbonisation.

Brazilian iron ore miner Vale and Korean steelmaker Posco have joined hands towards achieving this aim.

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