Most industrial emissions relate to producing materials, which are made efficiently but used wastefully so we need to reduce the weight of material made. The highest volumes of material are used not by households, but to make commercial and public buildings and infrastructure, industrial equipment and vehicles.
- Lobby businesses and the government to make buildings and infrastructure with half the material guaranteed to last for twice as long.
- When extending or modifying your home, try to choose recycled or re-used materials and avoid cement.
- Aim to reduce the total weight of material you purchase each year.
- Lobby for border controls on emissions in materials (like we have with food standards) to allow businesses fit for Absolute Zero to grow and prosper in the UK
Absolute Zero creates a driver for tremendous growth in industries related to electrification, from material supply, through generation and storage to end-use. The fossil fuel, cement, shipping and aviation industries face rapid contraction, while construction and many manufacturing sectors can continue at today’s scales, with appropriate transformations.
- Leisure, sports, creative arts and voluntary work: These sectors can expand greatly and should have a central position in national definitions of welfare targets.
- Electricity sector and infrastructure: Absolute Zero requires a 3x expansion in non-emitting electricity generation, storage, distribution and load-balancing.
- Construction sector: All new builds should be to zero-energy standards of use. The impacts of construction are primarily about the use of materials: primarily steel and cement. By 2050, we will have only very limited cementitious material and will use only recycled steel, but there are myriad opportunities for radical reductions in the amount of material used in each construction.
- Steel sector: All existing forms of blast furnace production, which are already under great pressure due to global over-capacity, are not compatible with zero-emissions. However, recycling powered by renewables, has tremendous opportunities for growth exploiting the fact that steel scrap supply will treble in the next 30 years. There are short term innovation opportunities related to delivering the highest quality of steel from recycling, and longer-term opportunities for technologies for zero-carbon steel making from ore that could be deployed after 2050.
- Cement sector: All existing forms of cement production are incompatible with zero emissions. However, there are some opportunities for expanded use of clay and urgent need to develop alternative processes and materials. Using microwaves processes to recycle used cement appears promising.
- Mining and material supply: Zero emissions will drive a rapid transition in material requirements. Significant reduction in demand for some ores and minerals, particularly those associated with steel and cement, are likely along with a rapid expansion of demand for materials associated with electrification. It seems likely that there will be opportunities for conslidation in the currently diffuse businesses of secondary material collection, processing, inventory and supply.
- Rail: The great efficiency of electric rail travel suggests a significant expansion in this area, domestically and internationally, is likely and would see high demand. The most efficient electric trains are aerodynamically efficient, like those designed for the highest speed operation today, but travelling at lower speeds.
- Road vehicles: The transition to electric cars is already well under-way, and with increasing demand, costs will presumably fall. We already have targets for phasing out non electric vehicles, but by 2050 will have only 60% of the electricity required to power a fleet equivalent to that in use today. Therefore we will either use 40% fewer cars or they will be 60% the size. Development of auto-grade steels from recycling is a priority, and the need to control recycled metal quality may require changed models of ownership. The rapid expansion of lithium battery production may hit short-term supply constraints and create environmental concerns at end-of-life unless efficient recycling can be developed.
- International freight: We currently have no non-emitting freight ships, so there is an urgent need for exploration of means to electrify ship power, and options to transfer to electric rail. This would require an enormous expansion in international rail capacity.
- Aviation: There are no options for zero-emissions flight in the time available for action, so the industry faces a rapid contraction. Developments in electric flight may be relevant beyond 2050.
- Fossil fuel industries: All coal, gas, and oil-fuel supply from extraction through the supply chain to retail must close within 30 years, although carbon capture and storage may allow some activity later.
- Travel and tourism: Without flying, there will be growth in domestic and train-reach tourism and leisure.
- Food and agriculture: Beef and lamb phased out by 2050 and replaced by greatly expanded demand for vegetarian food. Electricity supply for food processing and storage will be cut by 50%.
- Building maintenance and retrofit: Rapid growth in demand for conversion to electric heat-pump based heating matched to improvements in insulation and air-tightness for building envelopes.