Navigating the Climate Challenge: Reducing Carbon and Reducing Costs

From 25-28 September 2022 this year’s WCA Annual Conference took place in person at the Emirates Towers in Dubai/UAE. About 150 participants followed the invitation of the World Cement Association to gather under the main theme of “Navigating the Climate Challenge: Reducing Carbon and Reducing Costs”.

The fifth annual conference, which was prepared and held in cooperation with A3&Co.®, was to provide participants the opportunity to come together in preparation for the upcoming COP 27 in Egypt (November 2022) and COP 28 in UAE (November 2023). The program was designed for the CEOs and C-level executives from the MENA region and beyond in order to develop a common MENA Cement Sector Net Zero Roadmap adapted to the challenges and specificities of the region.

Both conference days offered the opportunity for two CEO dialogues, dealing with “Decarbonisation as a competitive game changer” and “MENA and GCC roadmap for a net zero future”.

In addition to 14 plenary key notes and panel discussions led by subject matter experts and thought leaders, the two days saw four different workshops talking about the industry’s response to climate change, the impact of high energy costs, energy efficiency, alternative fuels, new technologies, financing, and managing human capital.

Ali Emir Adiguzel, Founder & Director of WCA, Chairman of ACG Consultancy group, welcomed the attendees to the World Cement Association Annual Conference in Dubai. The WCA’s aim is to bring together the capabilities of cement producers worldwide with equal right for all regardless of size, nationality or group. He described the current situation as a “Perfect storm” with aspects like the cement demand being challenged worldwide, shortage turning into surplus and the simultaneousness from lower demand and higher costs. In his opinion the world cement industry must unite to cooperate and has to play an essential role for development in order to face the threats from global recession and tighter monetary policies. He added a slightly critical comment that the cement industry could already be further ahead in terms of climate change. In addition, he also emphasized the role WCA can play as a driver of positive change and a global contributor to industry solidarity.

The important task of chairing the conference was taken over by Nik Gowing, Founder & Co-director of Thinking the Unthinkable, during the two-day event. The audience was also welcomed to this first session of the day and conference entitled “The Big Picture” by Ian Riley, CEO of the World Cement Association, and Amr A. Nader, CEO of A3&Co.®, this year’s conference partner.

After the welcome notes WCA board member Mahendra Singhi, Managing Director and CEO of Dalmia Cement (Bharat) Ltd., was added online to present his keynote speech “Grey to green – Reducing carbon for integrated value creation”. He showed the accomplishments that are possible with a determined management and the resulting business opportunities of this approach. From June 2022 Dalmia, a prominent cement manufacturing group in India, has achieved the lowest emissions of any major cement company worldwide, with an average CO2 footprint of 486 kg per t of cement. “Our efforts have helped us achieve one of the lowest carbon footprints across the global cement industry, as well as being one of the most profitable cement companies in India”, said Mahendra Singhi, a visionary and advocate of sustainability, who has been the driving-force in inculcating this concept in the objectives and operations of the cement companies he has worked with.

Dalmia Cement is ranked no.1 globally by CDP on Low Carbon Economy Transition and noted by the UN Secretary General for its climate innovation.

In his “Outlook for the cement sector worldwide” Arnaud Pinatel, Managing Partner, On Field Investment Research, described the development of the cement sector following the Covid pandemic, the heavy supply chain disruption and the war in Ukraine as well as the slowdown of the Chinese economy. As the current energy crisis in addition led to another “punch” for the industry, a recession in 2023 seems more probable against the backdrop of declining demand. However, the volatility of energy prices could change the outlook for 2023 quickly, so that forecasts will have to be adapted in the next months.

The conference aimed to examine the strategic implications of a common Net Zero roadmap, having a sectorial decarbonisation framework, particularly in MENA, putting the cement sector ahead of the inevitable regularity changes. In his presentation Amr A. Nader, CEO of the conference partner A3&Co.®, showed the potential for the MENA regions cement sector concerning CO2 savings by 2030. Operational excellence, a product portfolio optimization, using WHR, RDF and biomass as well as calcined clay or belite cement were mentioned as the possible steps for a 47% CO2 reduction to reach EU benchmarks, combined with later measures to be taken like the second generation oxyfuel, CCU and hydrogen fuel.

Matthias Mersmann, CTO, KHD Humboldt Wedag, participated in the panels “Bringing the future cement plan into reality” and “Steps on the road to net zero: today’s actions”. During the second session he presented DECASS, the DECarbonization ASSistant, a new tool provided by WCA to navigate through the decarbonization process, developed to describe the implications and opportunities in selected decarbonization pathways.

All discussions during the conference were characterized by great openness and a noticeable will to take action. It was announced during this year’s meeting that the next conference will look at what progress on climate change has been made in one year’s time, to see to what extent the themes and topics of this conference have been taken up and implemented in the meantime.

The 2023 Annual Conference will take place on 17-18 October 2023 in Dubai/UAE.


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