Andrew Purvis

Director, Safety, Environment and Technology, worldsteel

8 November 2021

My previous blog introduced COP 26 and talked about hopes for the conference.

I’d like to spend a little time discussing more directly how our industry is being talked about and supported through the upcoming transition.

The most important new high-level initiative is probably the ‘The Breakthrough Agenda’, launched by the UK Presidency at COP26. Described by the Presidency as “A commitment to work together internationally this decade to accelerate the development and deployment of the clean technologies needed to meet our Paris climate goals, ensuring they are affordable and accessible for all.”

The Glasgow Breakthroughs will be the first set of global goals under this agenda, with goals that aim to make clean technologies the most affordable, accessible and attractive option in each emitting sector before 2030.

The Glasgow Breakthroughs will focus on some of the most challenging sectors, including steel.

The aim for steel is to make ‘Near-zero emission steel’  the preferred choice in global markets, with efficient and near-zero emission production in every region by 2030 or earlier. ‘Near-zero emissions’ steel is yet to be defined but is likely referring to greater than 90% reduction versus the conventional BF-BOF route, though both ore and scrap-based routes will be part of the solution

Source: UK Government

The Glasgow Steel Breakthrough aims to support and encourage coordination between a suite of existing initiatives addressing different aspects of steel and climate, establishing work packages to accelerate the steel transition and setting specific global targets or indicators to guide and measure progress.

The initiative will address innovation, procurement, standards, finance and cross-cutting issues.

As such, the Breakthrough initiative looks well-positioned to act as an umbrella, coordinating group atop an increasing number of initiatives, facilitating collaboration and giving an improved structure to initiatives that are already active.

Source: UK Government

It is envisioned that the initiative will mobilise governments to establish demonstration projects across key steel producing nations, collaborating across several elements of the steel decarbonisation challenge.

This will be delivered through the existing initiatives, including RD&D (Mission Innovation), standards and procurement (The Clean Energy Ministerial’s Industrial Deep Decarbonisation Initiative (CEM IDDI), and aligning finance (Leadership Group for Industrial Transition / Mission Possible Partnership (LeadIT / MPP)).

The COP Presidency hopes that a key outcome will be a faster transition to Net Zero, including governments mobilising demo and commercial projects.

The COP Presidency will invite the International Energy Agency (IEA), working in collaboration with the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the United Nations High Level Climate Action Champions, and other institutions and bodies, to lead an assessment of progress towards this breakthrough.

The framing of the Breakthroughs are intended to act as aspirational goals to mobilise sectors around common areas of collaboration to accelerate the momentum towards key technological ‘tipping points’ such as the cost of green low-carbon DRI, direct electrolysis of iron, and 100% renewable EAFs.

This whole initiative, part of a larger ‘Breakthrough Agenda’, commits countries to collaborate at a global, leader level on sectors in a way that hasn’t been done before.

The UK Government hope to position Glasgow Breakthroughs almost as a ‘Sectoral Determined Contributions’ programme, complementary to the current ‘National Determined Contributions’ under the UNFCCC.

On 2 November, 42 countries launched and endorsed the agenda programme with 26 countries (including India, the EU, Japan, the USA, Korea and Turkey) agreeing to participate in the steel elements of the programme. The UK presidency hope to grow this number over time.

We have seen a plethora of somewhat disparate climate-based initiatives launched over the last year or so, each looking at different specific aspects of the steel industry transition. The Glasgow Breakthroughs initiative appears to represent a credible effort to bring coordination and alignment to a somewhat crowded space.

worldsteel will maintain our engagement with the Breakthroughs team and we will monitor progress with much interest.