Åsa Ekdahl

Head, Environment and Climate Change, World Steel Association

17 November 2022

In October worldsteel organised its inaugural Open Forum, which aimed to engage with stakeholders in the steelmaking ecosystem, including equipment manufacturers, suppliers, international organisations and academia, and to discuss issues related to the steel industry’s decarbonisation transition.

The event itself took place in Brussels on 4-5 October and I could not have been happier with how it turned out. It was very well attended with excellent presentations, very active participants, and constructive discussions. The agenda focused on enabling conditions, and most speakers were external from many different parts of the steel ecosystem including international initiatives, NGOs, suppliers and consultancies.

Programme sessions

  • Opening session: Sajjan Jindal, Chairman and Managing Director, JSW Steel Limited and worldsteel Chair set the scene, sending a clear message that the steel industry is committed to decarbonisation action. Lord Adair Turner, Chair, Energy Transitions Commission gave an overview of the global decarbonisation context that steel industry has to operate in.
  • The pathway to Paris: The Paris Agreement, a legally binding international treaty on climate change, aims to limit global warming to well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels. The International Energy Agency and the Mission Possible Partnership gave their perspective on the strategies available to the steel industry.
  • Implementation and activities: ArcelorMittal, China Baowu Steel Group Corporation, and Ovako AB, three of worldsteel’s member companies, detailed a number of their current projects and strategies going forward.
  • Partnerships for transformation: Decarbonisation of the entire steel value chain can only happen with the close cooperation of both upstream and downstream industries. BHP, one of the world’s largest iron ore miners, OGCI Climate Investments, and Woodside Energy all gave their perspectives on how we can move this close cooperation forward.
  • How to measure and track emissions from steel production? The Net-zero Steel Pathway Methodology Project (NZSPMP), The Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi), The Net-zero Industry Tracker, and the IEA all stressed the importance of being able to prove that the steel industry is delivering on the goals that it has set itself. They outlined the work they are doing in developing methodologies that best incorporate steel industry specifics.
  • Raw materials and energy requirements for the steel industry’s transition: Wood Mackenzie and The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) explored the challenges that the steel industry faces in its upstream operations, and The Bureau of International Recycling (BIR) and BHP provided their perspectives during the panel discussion.
  • How customers and finance are shaping the market for low-carbon steel: The last session centered on initiatives that encourage steel industry customers to make low-carbon purchase commitments, SteelZero and ResponsibleSteel, as well as the Sustainable STEEL Principles developed by a group of banks that wants to ensure the climate alignment of their lending portfolios.

Sajjan Jindal, Chairman and Managing Director, JSW Steel Limited, worldsteel Chairman 2021-2022


There is now a relatively large number of reports and roadmaps trying to describe what the transition might look like, spanning from the IEA’s Iron and Steel Technology Roadmap issued in 2019 all the way to the Mission Possible Partnership’s strategy document, Making Net-zero Steel Possible, published in  September this year.

It is clear that these roadmaps have very similar key messages, including the need for breakthrough technology not yet available. There are also massive resource implications e.g. renewable energy, regional differences in technology and policy options depending on local circumstances, and the need for a new level of partnerships between all actors in the steel ecosystem.

From the sessions on worldsteel member company activities and partnerships it was evident that the transition is under way both within steel companies and in the supply chain, but that challenges still remain for example in linking demand from customers and their willingness to pay a premium for low-carbon steel.

We could also see an increased interest from iron ore suppliers and energy companies to create partnerships with steel companies, as the emissions in the steel industry constitute their scope 3 emissions and often far outweigh the direct emissions from their own operations.

The discussion on raw materials and energy emphasised that the investment in production and infrastructure for renewable energy is lagging behind and urgently needs to be scaled up. The current state of energy markets and deployment of renewable energy seems to indicate that it will be difficult to reach the targets for hydrogen DRI in Europe.

The clearest message from the two days was the call for common methodologies and clear definitions of low-carbon steel production and products. Many of the international initiatives need definitions for tracking and target setting and we now have many definitions all looking quite similar but differing in important details.

The one that is quoted the most is the definition for near-zero steel production from the IEA, as requested by the German G7 Presidency, Achieving Net Zero Heavy Industry Sectors in G7 Members, published in May of this year. It makes use of a sliding scale for scrap input into the steel making process and links this to the emissions from steel production. There seems to be a growing consensus that this approach could be suitable for policy application that focuses on the production of steel as it brings together all production routes in one approach. However, it is not suitable for products since it focuses on the steel production itself and does not cover product specific processes such as rolling and coating. Products are likely to need a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) approach.

Next steps

We had a fantastic inaugural event, one that we will repeat next year. We will focus on some of the topics that did not feature in this year’s event, suggestions include customer perspectives and financing for the transition, and take stock of the developments in the sector.

The presentations are now available for anyone interested to view, and I would very much encourage you to have a look.

I take the opportunity to extend my thanks to all individuals and organisations who participated, and I look forward to seeing you all again next year!