Joint statement: Canada's Cement Industry and the Government of Canada announce a partnership

Canada's Cement Industry and the GC announce a partnership to establish Canada as a global leader in low-carbon cement and to achieve net-zero carbon concrete

The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, Cement Association of Canada (CAC) Chair, Marie Glenn and Michael McSweeney, President and CEO, affirm the partnership between the Government of Canada and Canada's cement sector to support the development and implementation of a 'Roadmap to Net-Zero-Carbon Concrete'. This work will provide Canadian cement and concrete industry with the technologies, tools and policy needed to achieve net-zero carbon concrete by 2050.

This roadmap, when complete in December 2021, is consistent with goals of Canada's strengthened climate plan, A Healthy Environment and Healthy Economy, as well as Budget 2021, which identify the cement sector as a key contributor to Canada's net-zero future.

With a potential to reduce over 15 megatonnes of GHGs cumulatively by 2030, and then ongoing reductions of over 4 megatonnes annually, the objectives of this partnership are to position Canada's cement and concrete industry as a competitive global leader in the production of, and technologies related to low-carbon cement and concrete. This partnership could become a catalyst for change by:

  • Supporting further development of a Low-Emissions Building Materials Supply Chain in Canada, North America, and beyond, including data, innovation, standards, procurement and promotion;
  • Building a framework for exploring innovative opportunities while supporting and validating the development and evaluation of next generation technologies, products, and processes for commercialization that further reduce carbon content in cement and concrete; and,
  • Engaging with stakeholders – federal government, provinces, manufacturers, clean tech solutions providers, and others – in the building of knowledge about Canada's vision for emissions reduction in the cement and concrete sector, through funding mechanisms like the Net-Zero Accelerator fund, among others.

The Government, through its Greening Government Strategy, is also committed to buying lower carbon building materials, including concrete, and enhancing Canada's capacity to deliver low-carbon cement and concrete solutions to market.

Industry-Government Working Group

This partnership will establish an Industry-Government Working Group, led by the Cement Association of Canada (CAC), the National Research Council (NRC), and the Standards Council of Canada (SCC), in collaboration with Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED). The partnership provides the Government of Canada an opportunity to champion the decarbonization of the cement and concrete sector as well as demonstrates its commitment to removing GHG emissions from the environment and explore and action new and innovative economic opportunities across the value chain. The working group will be asked to:

  • Develop strategic objectives that will identify short and long-term actions to move towards building a low-carbon economy in the cement sector, including both Federal government and industry activities that need to be put in place to drive change;
  • Demonstrate the role of the cement and concrete industry in Canada's transition to a prosperous, resilient, and clean economy;
  • Advance the commercialization of low-carbon cement and concrete solutions and enhance the competitiveness of Canada's cement sector in a clean economy;
  • Secure Canada's contribution toward the global ambition of net zero carbon concrete by 2050, including by establishing GHG reduction milestones for the sector and identifying supporting market and policy frameworks;
  • Collect the data necessary to track progress against milestones;
  • Support Canada's Directive on the Greening of Government and the Canada-U.S. Greening of Government Initiative, with the aim of accelerating market demand for low-carbon cement and concrete; and
  • Support the ongoing collaborative work of the CAC and its members as well as federal, provincial and territorial governments to advance the objectives above.

It is expected that the NRC will lead the collaborative technical activities with other government departments (OGDs).

Planned Activities

The efforts of the working group will be directed towards a set of defined activities with measurable outcomes. The initial set of planned activities include the following:

  • Build Knowledge and opportunities for Low Carbon Products: Work with other government departmentsFootnote 1 and industry partners to give focus and priority to the Low Carbon Assets through Lifecycle Assessment ("LCA2") initiative:
    1. Release the Strategies for Low Carbon Concrete Primer to support procurement of low carbon concrete by public and private building and infrastructure decision makers;
    2. Complete the funding, collection, and analysis of regionalized lifecycle inventory data for Canadian cement and concrete and establish regionalized carbon intensity baselines for cement and concrete; and,
    3. Evaluate the harmonization of LCA2 life cycle assessment reporting with international best practices and green procurement policies of major trading partners.
  • Support Domestic and Global Market Development: Develop and fund a strategy for Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs)Footnote 2 and methods and tools to enable product differentiation on embodied GHG emissions of concrete, and develop a work plan to build market acceptance of low-carbon concrete and accelerate usage of Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage (CCUS), material resource efficiency, blended cements, Portland limestone cement (PLC)Footnote 3 and similar products and technologies. This work is also expected to support the Canada-US Greening of Government Initiative and related efforts to preserve and strengthen trade with the U.S.
  • Identify Strategic and "Lighthouse" Projects: Identify near- and mid-term projects to significantly reduce GHG emissions from cement and concrete manufacturing and support the commercialization and deployment of new low-carbon technologies, for example, recycling of demolished concrete as an alternative raw material source for concrete production, as well as utilizing its carbon uptake properties for permanent carbon storage through recarbonation, or similar CCUS methods. Efforts will seek to identify linkages to ISED and other government department technology development and support programs to accelerate these projects.
  • Strengthen Canada's Low Emissions Supply Chain: Develop a Low-Emissions Building Materials Supply Chain Strategy to support Canadian building material manufacturers in reducing emissions through incentives, carbon labelling, and full lifecyle disclosure of emissions. The NRC has materials science and durability expertise to support the development of new low-emission building materials and can support their market acceptance through NRC's Canadian Construction Materials Centre. Similarly, the NRC has lifecycle data collection and analysis expertise to support robust, transparent, and comprehensive disclosure of emissions, including work by the NRC to support the development of national technical standards and guidelines for cement and concrete material properties and durability.
  • Drive Innovation through Codes and Standards: Support the Canadian construction industry in preparing for performance-based standards in order to advance innovation in low-carbon resilient buildings and infrastructure. It is expected this work will be done in conjunction with the SCC to ensure the parallel development of agile and rigourous standards to validate and support the adoption of novel, low-carbon cement and concrete technologies. Standards developed will in turn support innovation of codes for infrastructure.
  • Support Canadian Research and Innovation: Continue efforts to develop and fund a net-zero-carbon concrete research and development strategy. This strategy should include workshops to identify research, guidance, and knowledge transfer needed by the cement, concrete, and construction industries to respond to new requirements for low-carbon structural materials. This will, in turn, help achieve the broader and longer-term climate change goals of government and industry. This research and development strategy will identify gaps and targeted projects to fill these gaps.
  • Promote Cleaner Fuels in Transportation: Work with the transportation sector to help develop lower to zero-carbon fuels for the transportation of building materials.
  • Set Green Procurement Rules: Government is the largest purchaser of concrete and can incorporate the CO2 emissions of concrete products in its procurement process in addition to traditional factors like bid cost and performance. The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS) would be encouraged to consider concrete as an initial sector to pilot its Greening Government Strategy.

Priority Outcomes

With a potential to reduce 15 megatonnes of GHGs cumulatively by 2030, and then ongoing reductions of over 4 megatonnes annually, together the Government of Canada and the CAC will pursue these stated objectives, work program and desired outcomes. Reports to Canadians will be posted regularly, including annual GHG reduction reports, to inform Canadians of progress made towards key milestones.

Given the urgency of demonstrating measurable reductions in GHGs across the Canadian economy, the working group will report to the Minister regularly on progress in the implementation of the work program and yearly on progress toward GHG reduction milestones, subject to the collection of data as described above.

Initial priorities:

  • Ensure the Canadian cement industry can meet its climate change targets and that it has business certainty, timely consideration of funding applications, and support in applying for cross government initiatives like the SIF Net Zero Accelerator fund;
  • Publication of Strategies for Low Carbon Concrete Primer;
  • Completion of the collection and analysis of regionalized lifecycle inventory data for Canadian cement and concrete;
  • Establishing regionalized carbon intensity baselines for cement and concrete; and
  • Publish updated Environmental Product Declarations ("EPDs") for cement and concrete.

Background Information

Background Information
Building Material Category Number of Operating Plants Employment Annual Production Economic Contribution
Cement 14 158,000 (direct and indirect jobs) 13 million tonnes (2014) $1.64 billion (2014 value)

Concrete is an indispensable construction material used in the building sector. It is essentially composed of a cementitious material, aggregates, and water, to which admixtures can be sometimes added to confer specific properties to the concrete. Cement is one of the main binders used for concrete production. Concrete is obtained by mixing cement (and possibly supplementary cementitious materials), fine and coarse aggregates (e.g.: sand, gravel and recycled concrete) and water. There are three principal concrete product categories: ready-mix concrete, precast concrete products, and concrete masonry units (cement blocks).

In Canada, concrete is one the most widely used construction materials with annual production rate of 60 million tonnes while cement, one of the main concrete components, has a production rate of 14 million tonnes respectively. In 2017, 1.5% (10.8MT) of Canada's GHG emissions was from concrete alone. It is estimated that the cement/concrete industry provides around 158,000 direct and indirect jobs in Canada. The value of Canada's cement production is around $1.64 billion (2014 value).

Cement is one of the two largest sources of industrial sector emissions in the world with 26% of all industrial CO2 emissions in 2019. The production of Canadian cement and concrete products resulted in the emission of 11,689 kilo tones of GHGs in 2008. Cement production is identified worldwide as a major GHG source (1.5% annually in Canada and 7% worldwide).