The Paris Climate Agreement has set a clear goal: to mitigate climate change, the global temperature increase needs to be limited in the long term to a maximum of 1.5 °Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels. The aluminium industry, with an average emission of 1.1 billion tonnes of CO2e per year, currently contributes to 2 percent of global emissions. To reach carbon neutrality, the industry needs to reduce its CO2 emissions by 80 percent by 2050—a challenge that cannot be tackled individually, but requires the commitment of the industry as a whole and along its entire supply chain.
As over 90 percent of the aluminium industry’s CO2 emissions occur at the level of primary material extraction and production (bauxite mining, transportation, alumina refining and smelting), decarbonizing the primary production processes is a necessary step towards decarbonizing the industry. However, this will not be enough. The aluminium industry must contribute much more. With 75 percent of the material ever produced still being in use today, aluminium is a role model for circularity and as such a real driver for decarbonization.
“With 75 percent of the material ever produced still being in use today, aluminium is a role model for circularity and as such a real driver for decarbonization.”
According to the Circularity Gap Report issued by Circle Economy, the world is only 8.6 percent circular. At 33 percent circularity, the aluminium industry is already much better than that. However, to reach carbon neutrality, the aluminium industry must become at least 50 percent circular. Because aluminium can be recycled again and again without losing its properties, the way to reach a carbon neutral aluminium industry is to reuse the material already available. To do that, we must maximize the quantity and quality of aluminium available for recycling and increase the amount of recycled content used to create low-carbon products.
Aluminium is the perfect material for a circular economy. It is used for a vast range of products: from food and beverage packaging, electronic devices and construction, to next-generation mobility solutions. Aluminium is also lighter than other metals, which reduces emissions through improved fuel efficiency in traditional vehicles, and also offers increased battery range for electric vehicles.