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  • Davide Bonesi

CE in COP27 Series - The Circular Carbon Economy

Decarbonization of the industrial sector is one of the fundamental goals for reducing our environmental impact. Among the different sectors, energy intensive industries are one of the key greenhouse gas emitters, accounting for about 25% of total CO2 emissions globally and 66% of the industrial sector. In particular, cement, iron and steel, as well as chemical and petrochemical industries represent the most conspicuous industrial CO2 emitters, with respective shares of 27%, 25%, and 14%, respectively. In this regard, shifting to the context of the circular carbon economy is no longer an option, but a necessity.

Day 5 of COP 27, November 11th, saw decarbonization as a theme. Among the events hosted in Sharm el Sheik, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and the Economic Commission for Western Asia (ECWA) organized a brief titled “Enabling the Circular Carbon Economy: Upscaling Regional Cooperation for Sustainable Development.” By focusing on the Pan-European, North American, and Arab regions, the brief explored the best strategies for energy-intensive industries to achieve carbon neutrality while preserving or increasing their global competitiveness.

Decarbonizing these industries presents two main challenges. Firstly, their large carbon footprint makes the transformation towards a carbon neutral production difficult. Secondly, these industries sustain the entire modern economy. For instance, while their emissions are high, they played a crucial role in the low-carbon post-Covid recovery. However, given the high share of greenhouse gas emissions produced, green strategies are needed to meet carbon neutrality and the Paris Agreement targets.

With this premise, the brief hosted in Sharm el Sheik focused on two kinds of solutions: technology-based solutions and concept-based solutions. Among the technology-based solutions, we find carbon capture, re-use and storage; industrial energy efficiency; and electrification coupled with increased renewability. As for the concept-based solutions, the ideas of the Circular Carbon Economy (CCE) and Industrial Clusters were stressed.

In defining CCE, H.E. Princess Noura bint Turki Al-Saud, AEON Collective, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, referred to “its four "Rs" — reduce, reuse, recycle and remove.” She stressed how they should be “front and centre of government strategy.” However, the results coming from CEE could be amplified if this were combined with an Industrial Cluster approach, a group of industries physically located in the same area. The latter presents not only “old” benefits, such as resource efficiency and shared logistics and knowledge, but also “modern” benefits, such as shared electrification infrastructure, shared emissions and demand optimization.

In energy-intensive sectors, “adopting circular economy approaches to help reduce needs for new materials will be crucial in this respect. Solutions must be implemented without delay” the Executive Secretary of the UN European Economic Commission, Olga Algayerova, said in a statement. By reducing, reusing, recycling and removing CO2 and methane emissions, together with an Industrial Cluster approach, we find a possible solution for carbon neutrality in such sectors. Implementing these strategies means making vital economic sectors greener, thus more affordable to modern generations.


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