CARBON CRUSH Same Climate Rules for Everyone

German steelmakers should not be disadvantaged in international markets by the country's overly strict climate regulations, writes the president of the German Steel Federation.
Steeled for a long, hot debate. Source. DPA

Climate protection begins with the materials that surround us daily. By using specially treated steel, our infrastructure is stronger. Thanks to hot-dip galvanized steel, our bridges last longer. And innovative coatings and new support structures extend the life of wind farms on the high seas, despite harsh weather and highly corrosive conditions.

Steel’s long life and 100-percent recyclability gives it an excellent ecological balance sheet: Emissions are avoided while energy and resources are saved when we use it.

The steel industry in Germany and Europe is working on new technologies and processes to further reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Since 1990, the steel industry in Germany has already cut its carbon emissions by more than 20 percent.

With current technology, however, the industry’s potential for further reductions in carbon emissions is limited. That’s because modern blast furnaces are more than 90 percent effective in reducing carbon, close to the scientific minimum

Breakthroughs in reducing greenhouse gases are dependent on new industrial technologies.

To significantly reduce greenhouse gas further, new processes and technologies are needed, in addition to extensive research. Investigating new procedures is only the first step. Mastering future breakthroughs and then applying them technologically on an industrial scale requires several stages of development and considerable time.

But high investment costs for developing alternative technologies must not become a disadvantage for the German steel industry, as it competes with companies from around the world. And it should be clearly recognized that breakthroughs in reducing greenhouse gases are dependent on new industrial technologies.

There is a danger now that climate-protection policies will consign these industries to a dead-end. One example is the European Union’s trade in emission rights, which establishes unrealistic carbon limits. Even the most efficient companies must purchase a high number of emission certificates. Under current requirements, costs for the industry could rise as high as €1.4 billion, or $1.6 billion, by 2030.

In such a framework, it is not possible to produce steel competitively.

Germany is ideally suited to develop innovative solutions for climate protection: the country has an unparalleled research network; manufacturing plants are not far from raw-material producers or processors; and there is a long-standing tradition of close cooperation between individual sectors such as steel, chemical products and energy.

All of these factors should allow German industry to put its mind to achieving greater climate protection. But in the end, it cannot be hampered by disadvantages in international markets – just because other countries don’t have climate regulations as strict as in Germany.


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