IAN RILEY, CEO OF WORLD CEMENT ASSOCIATION (WCA)

High level of engagement and the passion to take action

The ZKG Cement Lime Gypsum used the meeting as an opportunity to ask Ian Riley, CEO of WCA, a few questions about this year’s WCA Annual Conference in Dubai and the present situation of the cement industry’s changing process.

The theme of this year’s conference was “Navigating the Climate Challenge: Reducing Carbon and Reducing Costs”. Did the event and the delegates’ exchange meet your expectations?

Many delegates told me that they had never attended a conference where the key topics facing the industry were discussed so openly. I was delighted with the high level of engagement and the passion to take action.

One of the aims of this year’s WCA Annual Conference was to prepare the upcoming COP 27 and COP 28 conferences to represent the cement industry’s interests? What impulses and impacts could you take to these conferences as a result of the recent discussions?

COP 27 and COP 28 are sharpening the focus of the cement industry in the Middle East and Africa on the climate challenge. We see this as a chance to share best practices, not only on the steps to reducing carbon emissions but also on the opportunities that green construction and decarbonisation represent.

Do you think the WCA Annual Conference will have the necessary input or drive to get producers to start or increase their decarbonization efforts?

It takes time to get companies to change course on a topic that is so fundamental to the future of the industry, so I have no illusions about achieving quick wins. The WCA will organise events over the next 12 months to continue to engage companies on the topic of climate change and the opportunities it can bring.

A further conference was announced to take place at the same venue one year ahead to see what efforts have been made. How can changes or successes be measured? Do you have an idea of the status quo now?

The WCA Conference will take place in Dubai next year on 17-18 October 2023. At that time, we will announce the progress on climate commitments that companies in MENA and other emerging markets have made. I hope that WCA’s efforts will continue to accelerate the pace of both commitments and actual emission reductions. We are developing a way to measure such progress and it will be launched at our General Assembly in January.

You premiered DECASS, the DECarbonization ASSistant, a new tool provided by WCA to its members to navigate through the decarbonization process. What do you expect from the introduction of this and how does it work? Is the tool restricted only to WCA members or could other interested parties use it as well.

The next step is to carry out a test run at a couple of our members’ plants and to validate the logic and approach. After that we will work on packaging it in an easy-to-use system. The tool will be initially offered to WCA members but our aim is to maximise the impact of the tool, so we are open to providing it to non-members too.

What do you expect to happen during the next twelve months? Do you think personally that the delegates and the sector will now take concrete steps to forward decarbonization?

I see a lot of action taking place in some countries but much less in others. Even in the countries at the forefront of progress the impact on total carbon emissions is still modest. However, I do expect that we will hit a tipping point after which decarbonisation accelerates. Maybe that will be in the next 12 months, but I suspect we may have to wait a bit longer yet.

The world is having to face up to the reality that progress on reducing GHG emissions is too slow to meet the 1.5 °C target. I believe that this will lead to a re-examination of our decarbonisation activities and the related government policies and incentives. I hope this will lead to an acceleration of decarbonisation efforts.

Thank you very much for your time and interesting insights.
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