Global Steel at a Crossroads

New Agora study prepared with support from the Wuppertal Institute focuses on why the global steel sector needs to invest in climate-neutral technologies already in the 2020s

  • News 04.11.2021

Since 31 October, world leaders meet in Glasgow for the 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP26). Their mission is to reach a consensus on how to increase climate ambition and accelerate the global energy transition in the 2020s. The global steel sector will play a significant role in this transformation. During the World Leaders Summit on 2 November at COP26, major steel heavyweights that account for above 30 per cent of global steel production have agreed on a breakthrough agenda for the global steel transformation paving the way for “near-zero emission steel” to be the preferred choice in global markets before 2030. Now, Agora Industry is focusing on the green asset transition as an important lever for the sector's adaptation to the 1.5 degrees Celsius target.

The new study "Global Steel at a Crossroads" examines the challenges of and options for steelmaking asset transformation in a variety of countries. It was prepared with support from Prof. Dr. Stefan Lechtenböhmer, Clemens Schneider and Ole Zelt, Division Future Energy and Industry Systems of the Wuppertal Institute. More than 70 per cent of existing coal-based blast furnaces – employing 2.4 million people and emitting around 2.2 gigatons of carbon dioxide – will reach end-of-life by 2030. At the same time, emerging economies are currently building new coal-based steelmaking capacity to meet rapidly growing steel demand. This reveals major opportunities for the sector by moving from conventional blast furnaces to carbon-neutral technologies.

As the study shows, 70 per cent of existing coal-based steelmaking capacity in Europe alone will require reinvestment before 2030. China, which did not sign up to the steel breakthrough agenda and is responsible for more than half of global emissions from steel production, lies at 78 per cent. Further country-specific data can be found in the Global Steel Transformation Tracker. Ensuring that these reinvestments are redirected from coal-fired blast furnaces to carbon-neutral technologies could both protect existing jobs and create new jobs, particularly in emerging economies. At the same time, it could reduce the burden on the atmosphere by at least 1.3 gigatons of CO2 per year by 2030.

"Global Steel at a Crossroads" is the first in a series of Agora Industry publications on the global steel transformation. The study is available under the link below.

COP26 side event

During the COP side event "Towards climate neutral industrial value chains – Europe as frontrunner in the global steel transition" – jointly organised by Wuppertal Institute, IN4climate.NRW and Agora Industry – panelists will discuss challenges and opportunities of a global steel transformation that starts in the 2020s and how Europe can become a frontrunner. The event will take place on 6 November 2021 from 18.30 to 19.30 (CET) in the EU Pavilion and will also be broadcast live.

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