Climate

Why is Cementa so bad for the climate?
Cementa is the second largest emitter of carbon dioxide per year in Sweden, emitting just over 1.9 million tonnes in 2020, equivalent to about 4% of ALL greenhouse gas emissions within Sweden’s borders. Much of Cementa’s emissions come from the energy-intensive heating of cement kilns by burning coal – which until recently was largely imported from Russia.

Cement has a gigantic carbon footprint – at least 8% of global emissions come from the cement industry, which is more than the emissions of the aviation industry! Moreover, cement production is increasing every year, when it should be decreasing by at least 24% annually to reach above 2 degrees of warming. If Cement were a country, it would be the third largest emitter, after only China and the USA.

But Cementa says it will eventually switch to biofuels instead of coal, shouldn’t you support that?
Just because the source of carbon emissions changes doesn’t do much for the amount of emissions themselves. Cement’s burning of coal is not the only source of its emissions either. Cement production requires the heating of limestone, and this chemical reaction results in pure lime and carbon dioxide. Since a large part of the carbon dioxide emissions are caused by a chemical reaction, the company’s emissions cannot be eliminated by changing fuels or increasing efficiency. Only about 40% of the cement industry’s carbon dioxide emissions come from heating the kilns. The last 10% of carbon dioxide emissions come from the fuels needed to quarry and transport raw materials such as limestone. Beyond that, we don’t think people should be held responsible for applauding whenever a company makes the absolute minimum effort to appear as if they care about the climate crisis. And regardless of whether Cementa emitted no carbon dioxide at all, the effects of lime mining on groundwater are the same.

Cementa says it will capture more carbon dioxide than it emits with new technology, why isn’t that a solution to the problem?
CCS stands for Carbon Capture Storage and involves capturing and storing carbon dioxide under the seabed. Cementa is part of a larger coalition of cement companies, oil giants and heavy industry companies trying to develop CCS technology. Like much of Cementa’s and other fossil capitalists’ corporate “plans,” it sounds too good to be true. Here’s the bitter reality:

  • Even if they had been 100% successful, less than 2% of Heidelberg Cement’s total carbon emissions are captured (owned by both Swedish Cementa and Norwegian Norcem).
  • CCS technology also requires an increased supply of electricity at the Cementa plant and additional transport to move the carbon dioxide from the plant to the storage site. If this is done with additional carbon emissions (whether using fossil fuels or biofuels, which Cementa plans to use), then there is no longer any question of climate neutrality.
  • Moreover, we must not forget that the cement industry has other emissions than CO2 alone: sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, dust, etc. will continue to pollute the atmosphere, with or without CCS technology.

Even leaving this aside, these are still just plans: they are betting on being ready within 10 years. So we can expect 10 more years of progressively destroyed groundwater and continued emissions. CCS technology is nothing new, but the one that exists is nowhere near the scale needed for them to succeed in capturing all the carbon dioxide they emit. For the plan to work, the technology to make it possible must be developed, which they hope will happen within five years. Only after that will they decide whether to invest in the technology.

The main purpose of CCS technology in this case is not to take responsibility for their emissions, but it acts as a smokescreen for Cementa to continue expanding their damaging operations, all for the sake of profits. Greenwashing, it is called. This does not mean that we are always against the use of CCS technology, but we are against CCS technology when it is used as an excuse to continue ‘business as usual’. We do not have time to wait for vague and unlikely promises to be fulfilled, especially from the capitalist class who are known to offer nothing more than empty words!