Climate Action

New research shows heavy industries will be key in keeping a just climate transition on course

With it's first Heavy Industries Benchmark, the World Benchmarking Alliance is calling for the heavy industries to show leadership and take urgent action to support a just, low-carbon future.

  • 30 April 2024
  • Rachel Cooper

The World Benchmarking Alliance’s (WBA) first Heavy Industries Benchmark, reveals that the companies’ emissions intensity reductions are currently not aligned with a 1.5-degree trajectory, there is not yet enough investment in market-ready technologies, but good practice provides hope that robust transition planning is possible throughout the sectors. 

The World Benchmarking Alliance assessed and ranked 91 influential companies globally – 12 in aluminium, 34 in cement, and 45 in steel production, including Cemex, ArcelorMittal, Holcim, Chalco and Rio Tinto.

The heavy industries sectors of aluminium, cement, and steel – are critical to the world’s decarbonisation journey. They deliver the materials necessary for a transition to a more sustainable future. From electric vehicles to new homes to wind turbines and solar panels the demand for production from heavy industries will continue to grow in the next decade.  

Yet, to meet decarbonisation goals, manufacturers and suppliers of these materials cannot maintain business as usual, as they are currently responsible for emissions representing 18% of global CO2, and just the 91 assessed companies were responsible for 7% of global energy-related emissions in 2022. 

Vicky Sins, World Benchmarking Alliance’s Decarbonisation and Energy Transformation Lead, said: "Heavy industries provide a massive opportunity to help us reach and ‘cement’ a rapid, just transition – but if the sector does not accelerate action, they will be a significant obstacle to global decarbonisation targets. We need strong accountability, leadership and urgent action from aluminium, cement, and steel producers to ensure a just, low-carbon future."

WBA’s research found that emissions intensities from companies need to fall 3 times faster in the next 5 years in order to align with a 1.5 trajectory. If these reductions are not reached by 2030, the need for more market ready technologies will be even more critical. 

The assessed sub-sectors have new and innovative technologies available that can lead companies towards a low carbon future, but investments in R&D for market-ready technologies is insufficient. Of the companies assessed, 24% disclose R&D expenditure in low-carbon technologies, and just 10% in non-mature technologies. 

To ensure decarbonisation doesn’t stop with them, companies should be collectively building the foundation for transition planning. The results found that good practice was observed across the sector with 28% of companies having transition plans that encompass all business units/operations, 13% cover the entire companies value chain, 23% incorporate a carbon price calculation and 8% align with low-carbon scenarios. This highlights that these sectors can elevate standards for key players and assist laggards to join the rest.  

The Alliance are calling for the heavy industries to show leadership and take urgent action to support a just, low-carbon future. Policy makers, investors and other stakeholders must join the movement and hold these companies accountable

Find out more here.