Steelmakers call for common standard to meet emissions goals

To achieve a decarbonized steel industry by 2050 and meet consumer demand for “green” steel products, an international group of steelmakers has urged the United States and EU to adopt a global emission standard to support the transition to low-emission steel

An international group of steelmakers, including the Steel Manufacturers Association, Nucor, CELSA Group, Steel Dynamics Inc (SDI), Commercial Metals Company and the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, announced the formation of the Global Steel Climate Council (GSCC) on Thursday November 17.

The new coalition “supports a global standard that accelerates the transition to low-emission steel and recognizes the potential of the recycled, circular steel model to reduce carbon emissions.”

While the US and EU are negotiating a new emissions standard for steel production, the GSCC has argued that the focus should be on the amount of emissions generated, and not on how the steel is produced.

The primary focus of the GSCC is to establish a standard focusing on the following guiding principles:

  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the global steel industry
  • Establishing a standard that is technology- and production method-agnostic
  • Establishing a standard that has a system boundary that includes Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions
  • Establishing a standard that aligns with a science-based path toward limiting global temperature increase from pre-industrial levels to 1.5ºC (2.7ºF) by the year 2050
  • Providing relevant information on sustainable steelmaking to appropriate decisionmakers.

“This new standard will accelerate the actual reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and provide key decision-makers with accurate data to make informed decisions,” Mark Millett, SDI chairman, president and chief executive officer, said in a statement.

We have the technology to reduce carbon emissions in steel production by 70% today

“We have the technology to reduce carbon emissions in steel production by 70% today,” Leon Topalian, Nucor president and CEO, said in the statement. “The global industry needs to build on the innovation that has already led to cleaner steel production in the United States because the green and digital economies around the world are going to be built with steel, and the steel they are built with matters.”

The GSCC also indicated that a “sliding scale” system would fail to create a level playing field, “penalizing [electric-arc furnace] producers and permitting higher-emission steel to be erroneously labeled as ‘green.’”

According to the GSCC: “Under a sliding scale, two steel products could be classified as equally ‘green,’ even though one was produced by creating multiple times more carbon emissions than the other,” the GSCC said.

One step at a time

Speaking at ResponsibleSteel’s Forum III conference in Memphis, Tennessee, in late October, US Steel CEO Dave Burritt also highlighted the challenges of finding a clear path to decarbonization and making sure the entire world is on the same path.

“We have a need for speed in standardization, collaboration and decarbonization,” Burritt said. “We do need to bring China along and make sure India is brought along... But first we have to do our jobs and make sure we’re pulling our weight and working together, particularly here in the United States.”

In late June, ResponsibleSteel — a third-party global provider of sustainability standards and certifications — announced it was working on a steel certificate that they hope will mark the next step in a standardized benchmark for sustainable steelmaking.

Steelmakers including voestalpine, ArcelorMittal and US Steel have received site certifications from ResponsibleSteel in the past year.

“We’ve got significant cost challenges and significant capital intensity challenges... Luckily, we’ve got some brilliant people working on how we can make these things more cost-effective and doable,” Burritt said. “We can’t stand still. This is the moment for steel to step up, lock arms and help save the planet.”

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