As Britain works towards meeting its climate change targets, one of the most pressing issues is how to meet those commitments while also supporting the strategically vital steel industry. That is why Green Alliance is building a coalition calling for clean steel to be trialled in the UK.
Steel is traditionally made by using coal powered blast furnaces. Even today, over 70 per cent of the world's steel is made this way, meaning the industry has an enormous carbon footprint. Every tonne of steel produced globally sends almost two tonnes of CO2 on average into the atmosphere. In the UK, the two remaining primary steelworks are the two largest single point sources of UK carbon emissions, contributing 15 per cent of UK industrial emissions.
This is not an insoluble problem. Emissions from steel production can be dramatically reduced while also giving the sector the best chance to thrive long term. This partly means using and reusing steel more efficiently, as well as maximising the use of scrap steel within the UK, rather than exporting it as waste only to import the high value products other countries turn it into.
Hydrogen-based steelmaking could also help: replacing coal in a dedicated plant, it has the potential to produce new primary steel with near zero emissions. Other countries, like Germany, Sweden and China, are already putting this technology into practice. We believe it is vital the government commits to trialling this technology, alongside establishing an ambitious decarbonisation plan for the steel sector, so that the industry and its jobs have long term certainty.
We are working on this project with Hanbury Strategy and the European Climate Foundation.