After a two-day meeting in Berlin under Germany’s 2022 presidency of the G7 group of advanced economies, Climate, Energy and Environment Ministers issued on 27 May a communiqué setting out a wide range of actions to tackle ‘the triple global crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution’ while condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and warning of its consequences.

Notably, G7 ministers committed to the goal of achieving predominantly decarbonised electricity sectors by 2035, as mapped out in an IEA report on the topic in October 2021, and recognised multiple aspects of the IEA’s work on the clean energy transition and energy security, including a recent major report on how to put carbon dioxide emissions from heavy industries such as steel and cement on a path towards net zero.

The IEA’s analysis and activities were cited throughout the communiqué, spanning many key areas including efforts to improve energy efficiency, the need for increased investment in renewables, tracking of methane emissions, ensuring sufficient critical mineral supplies for clean energy technologies, and the IEA’s ’10 point plan to reduce the European Union’s reliance on natural gas and to cut oil use’ which were produced in response to the energy market impacts of Russia’s invasion.

The communiqué devoted particular attention the IEA’s recent report ‘Achieving net zero heavy industry sectors in G7 members’, which was produced at the request of Germany’s presidency to inform policy makers, industrial leaders and other decision makers ahead of the G7 Berlin summit. The report lays out a series of recommendations for G7 economies to advance the transition towards near zero emission steel and cement production, building on the IEA’s 2021 report ‘Net Zero by 2050: a roadmap for the Global energy Sector’.

“There is no way to reach net zero without dramatic reductions in emissions from heavy industry, and G7 economies have both a responsibility and an opportunity to take a leadership role in driving that forward,” said IEA executive director Fatih Birol. “Emissions from heavy industry are among the most stubborn, making it essential that countries with significant financial and technological resources use them to scale up practical solutions in a co-ordinated way. This new report sets out realistic and actionable steps for G7 members that can provide a catalyst for the global progress that is urgently needed.”

“To achieve our goal to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees, we have to decarbonise our industries. This decade is key to set the tracks to climate neutrality. Especially in sectors where emissions are high but hard-to-abate like steel and cement, we have to fundamentally shift production methods,” said Robert Habeck, Germany’s Federal minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Action. “The IEA report ‘Achieving Net Zero Heavy Industry Sectors in G7 Members’ shows us pathways and advances our understanding of the tools and definitions we need. It brings us a big step further to jointly create an international economic and political environment that incentivises investments in green and low carbon production facilities. We want the G7 to be a pioneer in this process.”

Heavy industry is responsible for more than 15% of coal use and about 10% of oil and gas use in G7 members. This makes the net zero transition in heavy industry an important pillar for reducing the reliance on fossil fuels in the G7 in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. However, many of the technologies for significantly reducing emissions from heavy industry are still at large prototype or demonstration stage, and competitive international markets for heavy industrial products often result in profit margins that are too thin to cover the higher up-front costs of integrating low emission processes. 

The IEA report sets out a toolbox that G7 members can draw upon and recommends that they set out ambitious long-term energy transition targets for heavy industry while supporting demonstration and early commercial projects through targeted finance and other risks mitigation measures.

G7 members – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States plus the European Union – account for around 40% of the global economy, 30% of energy demand and 25% of energy system CO2 emissions. Meanwhile, heavy industry’s direct CO2 emissions amount to around 6 billion tonnes per year, more than one-sixth of total CO2 emissions from the global energy system. Producers of steel and cement in particular face unique challenges to drastically reduce their emissions footprint. The G7’s economic heft, technology leadership and international alliances present it with a special role in leading the way and inspiring successful energy transitions in these crucial sectors, the IEA report says.

Among many recommendations the report indicates that supply-side efforts could also leverage essential private investment, while on the demand side, the report recommends using carbon contracts for difference, public procurement rules, mandates, quotas and other related measures to create differentiated markets for steel and cement production with near zero emissions, which at least in the immediate future will be more expensive than materials made using legacy processes.  

The report also calls for G7 governments to adopt stable, absolute and ambitious thresholds for material production with near zero emissions. It proposes definitions and relevant thresholds for the G7 to adopt as a starting point that are compatible with a global pathway to net zero emissions by 2050 and suggests that G7 members should work with industry to establish agreed-upon thresholds, definitions and measurement standards for what constitutes steel and cement production with near zero emissions.