How the world’s heaviest polluting industries can reach net-zero

Clare Kelly
by Clare Kelly
10 November 2021
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) report highlighted the urgent need for nations to work together and formulate policies to deeply reduce carbon and methane emissions - or to prepare for irreversible, catastrophic consequences.

Seven of the world’s most carbon-intensive sectors – aluminium, aviation, cement and concrete, chemicals, shipping, steel, and trucking – presently account for 30% of overall carbon emissions and all eyes will be on them in the coming years to change how they operate.

The good news is that reaching net-zero carbon emissions from heavy industry and heavy-duty transport sectors is both technically and financially possible by mid-century. Mission Possible Partnership (MPP) is an alliance of climate leaders focused on supercharging decarbonisation across the entire value chain of the world’s highest emitting industries in the next 10 years.

Mission Possible Partnership

Comprising four core partners, including Virgin Unite’s partners RMI, the Energy Transitions Commission, the We Mean Business Coalition, and the World Economic Forum, MPP is developing partnerships and creating tipping points across the so called hard-to-abate sectors.

“The global economy knows no borders and progress in seven sectors is critical to the world hitting the Paris goals. Today’s leading CEOs recognise the need to focus on the climate emergency with the same energy they use to deliver on profits. MPP’s mission is to mobilise corporates, financial institutions, and governments across sectors to work together on a global scale – supplementing national efforts orchestrated by the Paris Agreement. Together we can go faster, and this is what it will take to get to Net Zero on time,” said Cate Hight, Operations Director at MPP and Principal at RMI.

MPP’s transition strategies outline the actions needed to fully decarbonise the value chains of these seven critical sectors, which together represent 30% of energy emissions today and could increase to 60% as demand peaks.


Key Action Areas of the Mission Possible Partnership

  1. Aluminium. The aluminium sector is an integral part of a sustainable economy, but it currently involves one of the most energy and carbon-intensive production processes. MPP is working to help the aluminium industry reach net-zero by creating sector-wide decarbonisation pathways.

  2. Aviation. In early 2020, global air travel produced 3% of global emissions and was projected to double capacity by 2035. MPP’s Clean Skies for Tomorrow (CST) Coalition is working to collaboratively facilitate the industry’s transition to net-zero emissions by mid-century. In October this year Virgin Atlantic joined MPP - committing to deliver a clear path to #NetZero by 2050.

  3. Cement and Concrete. Concrete production accounts for about 7% of annual global CO2 emissions; up to 95% of that stems from cement production. The Concrete Action for Climate (CAC) initiative focuses on cross-industry and multi-stakeholder collaboration – developing unified policy asks and an industry roadmap to net-zero CO2 emissions.

  4. Chemicals. Due to global population growth and expansion of the middle class, it is expected that demand for chemicals and materials will quadruple by 2050. The achievement of the Paris Agreement goals requires the chemical industry to reduce emissions by 45%. The MPP initiative is addressing the necessary technology, regulatory, funding, and market challenges to decarbonise the chemical industry.

  5. Shipping. International shipping emits 2-3% of global GHG emissions, transporting close to 90% of global trade by volume. MPP’s ‘Getting to Zero’ coalition is working to ensure the viability of zero-emission vessels (ZEVs) along deep-sea trade routes by 2030, as well as building the infrastructure for scalable zero-carbon energy sources across production, distribution, storage, and bunkering.

  6. Steel. Global carbon emissions from iron and steel production are currently around 2.3Gt per annum, 7% of global energy system emissions. Business-as-usual scenarios suggest that this could rise to 3.3Gt per annum by 2050. MPP’s net-zero steel initiative is mobilising steel industry leaders to transition to zero carbon emissions in steel.

  7. Trucking. Emissions from heavy road transport are set to grow from about 2.5 gigatons (Gt) to 4.6 Gt, meaning the trucking industry could account for 10% of global GHG by mid-century. Road Freight Zero is the coalition aiming to deliver scalable solutions that will accelerate the deployment of zero emission fleets and infrastructure for long-haul application.

To learn more about MPP and its path to net-zero emissions by 2050, visit the website.

In December 2014, Carbon War Room (which was co-founded in 2009 by Richard Branson and a team of like-minded entrepreneurs wanting to speed up the adoption of market-based solutions to climate change) merged with RMI. RMI is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit organisation working to accelerate the clean energy transition and improve lives.