By Miguel López, thyssenkrupp CEO
Late November is rapidly approaching, bringing COP28 into view. The world’s attention is turning to Dubai, and how the conference will shape the future development of global industries in pursuit of a sustainable environmental future for all.
Each year, the world’s most important climate conference produces measures that satisfy some while disappointing others – an inevitable outcome when compromises are being hammered out between hundreds of nations within a massively condensed timeframe. However, one message that consistently cuts through the post-conference analysis of every COP is this: we must move faster. We must decarbonize our global economy faster to keep the Paris Agreement 1.5C target alive and stave off the worst effects of climate change.
This is why thyssenkrupp will be joining COP28; we’re bringing a diverse team including top executives and experts to Dubai to be part of the conversation, to share our expertise and contribution, and encourage deeper collaboration throughout our industry and beyond.
Ambitious adoption of key technologies will drive the green transformation
After power generation, the industrial sector is the biggest global emitter of greenhouse gases, representing 30% of annual emissions and 40% of global energy consumption. We’re highly aware of the carbon-intensive nature of our own operations, as thyssenkrupp Steel emits approximately 2.5% of total greenhouse gas emissions in Germany. Conversely, this means that almost nobody can make a greater contribution to decarbonisation in Germany than we can. Or to put it bluntly: we at thyssenkrupp are one of the most effective climate activists with our decarbonisation commitment.
Don’t misunderstand me: It is not easy to do. Change begins at home, which is why our green transformation efforts to achieve complete carbon neutrality by 2050 are in full swing.
On October 1st 2023, thyssenkrupp brought together its key decarbonization technologies under a single segment. Alongside my CEO role, I am also leading the new segment. With this I would like to emphasize that thyssenkrupp is fully committed to the green transformation. By building a green industrial powerhouse of interconnecting technologies, we turn from being part of the climate change problem to becoming an integral part of the solution.
The aim is to reduce CO2 emissions as far as possible. So here too, anyone who can achieve this is one of the biggest climate protection pioneers. We can. And therefore, that's what we want to be. That is our opportunity and our mission.
These are crucial developments because they can unlock the future of ecologically sustainable industries anywhere in the world. Put simply, if we can create the means for greener industry, and then transport them at scale, we can make global industry truly sustainable.
Risk vs Reward – Tech adoptions need shared knowledge and responsibility
Upscaling greener technology is inevitable, but it carries justifiable concerns and adoption risks. Industrial operations are based on economies of scale and feature processes that may have remained broadly similar for years if not decades. Completely overhauling the infrastructure and daily operations of such outfits is a daunting prospect, which is exactly why we must share our experiences and disseminate best practices to help every industrial sector scale up its tech adoption with greater speed and surety.
COP28 is the ideal forum to do this, as it fosters collaboration on an international scale. Building alliances is the surest way to build the necessary confidence to act faster and bolder when it comes to decarbonization. At thyssenkrupp, we are ready to further engage here and work together in global initiatives.
Green ambitions + green funding = green hydrogen
To talk specifics, green hydrogen is a perfect example of how decarbonization and the overall green transformation of industry can be turbocharged with the right combination of ambition and resource commitment.
Regarding our own efforts, steel making is an extremely emissions-heavy business; the thyssenkrupp Steel plant in Duisburg produces 30,000 tons of pig iron per day, producing more than 55,000 tons of CO2 in the process. However, hydrogen is the key to eliminating these emissions, as its use means that only water vapor is emitted instead of carbon dioxide.
To achieve a hydrogen ramp-up on a truly industrial scale, we’re forging ahead with the "tkH2Steel" decarbonization project – a technologically new plant combination where hydrogen allows for the creation of 2.5 million metric tons of directly reduced iron per year. This is a crucial step towards producing three million tons of CO2-reduced steel per year from 2030.
Not only will this project save a ton of emissions (6 million tons by 2030, to be exact) it will serve as a springboard for Germany’s green hydrogen production, with this facility alone aiming for a target annual capacity of 143,000 metric tons. This is what iterative change looks like – not only are we decarbonizing our operations, we’re creating the technological advancements and the literal fuel for green transformation across the industry.
thyssenkrupp is investing almost three billion euros in the first direct reduction plant as part of "tkH2Steel" at the Duisburg site. We are receiving funding totaling around two billion euros from the federal and state governments for this project. Again, this underlines the accelerative force of private-public collaboration. Without it, the project would likely have a much later implementation timeframe – and time is a resource we have very little to spare.
Can COP28 serve as a turning point in the climate struggle?
As the opening ceremony for COP28 draws near, all attendees should use these remaining days to consider what they will bring to the table. While use cases, tech adoption experiences (good and bad), suggestions and hard data are all invaluable, perhaps the most important element to bring is a collaborative mentality.
Every agreement, target and measure produced at previous COPs was the work of painstaking cooperation and the vision to deliver a net-zero world economy. At COP28, everyone has their part to play, and, increasingly, that part must be aligned with the efforts of others to leverage its full potential.