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Steel industry may hit CO2 objectives early

By LIU ZHIHUA | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2021-03-19 09:09

Employees carry out maintenance work at a steel production facility in Maanshan, Anhui province, in November. [Photo by LUO JISHENG/FOR CHINA DAILY]

Nation aiming to make upstream suppliers, downstream applications like construction, appliances more sustainable

In the post-COVID-19 era, eco-friendly steelmaking is essential to the quality development of China's steel industry, and as the country stands firm on transforming the steel industry toward low carbon growth pathways, the sector is expected to hit a carbon dioxide emission peak as early as 2025, five years ahead of the nation's commitment, according to industry experts.

At the general debate of the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly via video in 2020, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced that China aims to have CO2 emissions peak before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060.

"As the largest source of carbon emissions among 31 manufacturing sectors in China, the steel industry accounts for about 15 percent of national carbon emissions and is key to reducing China's carbon emissions," said Xu Xiangchun, information director and analyst at Mysteel, an iron and steel industry consultancy.

"Under the country's commitment to peaking carbon emissions by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060, the steel industry is likely to peak carbon emissions in 2025," Xu said.

A draft guideline on promoting the high-quality development of the steel industry, released by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology at the end of 2020, also said the steel industry should strive to achieve a peak in carbon emissions by 2025.

According to the guideline, more than 80 percent of China's steel mills, in terms of capacity, are expected to realize an ultra-low carbon emission upgrade by 2025, and all steel mills in key regions for air quality improvement, including the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei area and the Yangtze River Delta, must accomplish that goal by 2025.

The guideline also asked the steel industry to reduce pollutants and energy consumption by more than 20 percent and 5 percent by 2025, respectively.

Water use intensity per unit of steel production should be reduced by more than 10 percent by then, while the reuse rate of water resources should reach more than 98 percent, it said.

Li Xinchuang, chief engineer and Party secretary of the Beijing-based China Metallurgical Industry Planning and Research Institute, expects steel demand in China will peak in the near future, and the industry is currently undergoing a development phase featuring gradual output reduction, increasing mergers and acquisitions and strengthening emphasis on green development.

The industry is faced not only with opportunities presented from such a high-quality developmental transformation but also challenges arising from strict environmental protection and low-carbon development requirements, Li said.

The China Iron and Steel Association said the steel industry is key amid China's attempt to reduce carbon emissions, and it is urgent for the sector to reduce energy and resources consumption, ease bottlenecks in carbon emission reduction efforts and shore up low-carbon development.

He Wenbo, CISA's executive chairman, said green and low-carbon development has become a universal mindset among China's steelmakers, and some domestic players have led the world in using advanced pollution treatment facilities and reducing carbon emissions.

The association released an initiative in February calling on the entire industry to further carbon emission reductions.

Accelerating the steel industry's carbon emission reductions and making contributions to deliver on China's commitment to peaking carbon emissions by 2030 and realizing carbon emission neutrality by 2060 are obligatory duties and responsibilities of the industry, the initiative said.

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