Approaches to industrial decarbonisation

The goal of carbon neutrality means that industrial decarbonisation requires a fundamental change in the long term. The driver behind innovation and efficiency is climate action, which will contribute to the success and international competitiveness of the German industry.

Since 2005, the main instrument for the reduction of industrial greenhouse gas emissions in Germany has been the European Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS). The EU ETS uses the price signal to tap emission reduction potential in the energy sector and energy-intensive industries. However, this is not sufficient to achieve the goal of greenhouse gas-neutral sectors by 2050.

Energy-related greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced by far-reaching increases in energy efficiency through the use of efficient technologies and process optimisation, including the consistent use of waste heat. Indirect energy-related greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced by using electricity from renewable sources. In both of these sectors, companies have already gained extensive experience and achieved success in recent years – however, more comprehensive efforts are needed.

The development of solutions to significantly reduce process-related greenhouse gas emissions is particularly demanding – and is still partially at its infancy. In most cases, however, incremental conversions and changes in production processes are not sufficient. Disruptive innovations are necessary since they lead to a transformation of entire process chains – only by introducing alternative production processes can process-related greenhouse gas emissions be avoided. Some of these new production processes are already known and need to be further developed to market maturity and introduced to the market, while others have to be fundamentally re-developed and researched.

Industrial production plants, especially in the emission-intensive basic industry, generally have a very long service life of several decades, in some cases even more than 50 years. For this reason, the necessary climate-neutral technologies must be developed at an early stage and used in reinvestment cycles. This is the only way to ensure that the necessary investments in climate-friendly production facilities are indeed made in the years to come. This requires a considerable expansion of research and development into specific process innovations between industry and the scientific community - and financial support for investments in new production processes.