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Aluminum Group Offers Carbon-Cutting Plan for Industry

The International Aluminium Institute outlined plans for the industry to cut carbon emissions substantially by 2050, while still falling short of the net-zero goal being adopted by many countries.

The organization, which represents aluminum producers globally, set out a pathway to get the industry down to 250 million metric tons in carbon emissions annually by 2050, a 77% cut from the current level. The most significant cut will come in primary aluminum production, which would still account for 200 million tons of the total by then.

Mounting concern over greenhouse-gas emission tied to global warming has prompted pledges by scores of companies to get to net-zero emissions. The aluminum industry, which needs huge amounts of power and is considered a big source of carbon dioxide, is coming under more scrutiny from investors and consumers. Companies including Rio Tinto Group are targeting net-zero emissions from operations by 2050.

“All processes can probably be decarbonised but some would require development and implementation of new process technology,” Adisa Amanor-Wilks, a spokeswoman for the IAI, said in an emailed response to questions about when the industry will get to net zero. “Commitment on timelines are more appropriately made by those who make the operational and investment decisions needed — companies and governments, for example — and will be different depending on local circumstances and options available.”

In a report Tuesday, the group set out three approaches to emissions reductions for the aluminum industry, in line with the International Energy Agency’s Beyond 2 Degree scenario. The three pathways are through electricity decarbonization — using power from low-carbon energy sources and utilizing carbon capture and storage; cuts to direct emissions from manufacturing processes; and the increase of recycling and resource efficiency.

The goal of the 2015 Paris accord is to hold the rise in temperatures to below 2 degrees Celsius, compared with preindustrial levels, and preferably to 1.5 degree, at the end of this century.

Aluminum accounts for an estimated 1% of greenhouse gas emissions by the industrial sector. Companies including Alcoa Corp. and Rio Tinto are beginning to brand some of their aluminum as low-carbon because, in part, they use hydroelectricity as the power source.

The institute said it couldn’t give a geographic breakdown of emissions sources by 2050 for the industry. Currently, China accounts for about 68% of aluminum-production emissions, given its heavy reliance on coal-powered energy. Electricity generation accounts for about 60% of the global industry’s emissions.

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