Though climate finance is likely to be the main focus of COP 27 next month, the expected presence of a large contingent of businesses raises hope that there will be a review of emission-reducing activities as well. In specific, a focus on the progress being made to mitigate pollution by hard-to-abate industrial sectors that account for 30 per cent of global emissions.

Among the sectors identified in COP 26 as needing attention was the steel industry. The iron and steel industry in India contributes 12 per cent of total carbon dioxide emissions annually, and the need for solutions is urgent if India has to meet its net zero emission targets by 2070.

COP 26 saw the setting up of the First Movers Coalition (FMC) by the World Economic Forum where over 50 companies had made corporate purchasing pledges to decarbonise seven hard-to-abate industrial sectors, steel being one of them.

SteelZero initiative

India, which was also part of FMC and is the world’s second-largest steel-producer announced a SteelZero initiative this July. This was steered by non-profit Climate Group and ResponsibleSteel, and saw leading companies like JSW, Tata Steel and Larsen & Toubro buying into the idea and promising to lead the way.

The government has been pushing for decarbonisation of steel in line with its commitment. It has asked stakeholders to develop a time-bound action plan and at a recent meeting discussed the best way forward to transition to green steel, including exploring the use of green hydrogen in producing iron, the use of carbon capture utilisation and storage (CCUS) technologies for lowering emissions.

According to the ministry, it is funding R&D project proposals in joint collaborative mode with reputed academic institutions, research laboratories and steel companies for the development of new alternate processes and technologies.

Zero emissions by 2030

At COP26, steel purchasers had made a commitment that at least 10 per cent (by volume) of steel they procure annually would be near zero emissions by 2030. It was also recognised that for this to become a reality, cutting-edge carbon removal technologies were needed that were cost effective and capable of being scaled up.

Fossil-free steel

At the FMC meet in Glasgow the first-ever piece of fossil-free steel was showcased. And since then, in May this year, Volvo has showed the way forward by introducing fossil-free steel, manufactured by Swedish steel company SSAB, in its trucks. This should encourage others to focus on more R&D into carbon removing technologies.

The time has clearly come to walk the talk. With COP 27 President-Designate, HE Sameh Shoukry, stating that “there can be no room for delay in the fulfilment of climate pledges or backtracking on hard earned gains in the global fight,” and everyone will have to step up.

As the world’s second largest steel producer the steps India has taken will merit attention. There will also be interest in what it intends to do before COP 28 scheduled in the UAE next year.

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