Emissions from industry: what business is doing to protect the climate


Status: 01.11.2021 2:22 p.m.

Industry plays a key role on the path to climate neutrality. It has to drastically reduce CO2 emissions and invest billions. Some companies are leading the way with the climate-friendly conversion.

From Notker Blechner, tagesschau.de

For a long time, German industrial groups were seen as a brake on climate protection. For years, car manufacturers, for example, have been very reluctant to switch to electromobility. The steel mills and the large chemical companies also often shied away from investing in climate-friendly technologies.

BDI calls for more speed in climate protection

In some cases, German companies cannot go fast enough with the ecological transformation of the market economy. The Federation of German Industries (BDI) recently called for climate protection to be accelerated. By 2025, central political decisions would have to be made so that the climate-friendly conversion could pick up speed. Otherwise the industry would lose competitiveness in an international comparison. “The climate-neutral industrialized country is not available for free,” warned BDI President Siegfried Russwurm.

In order to achieve the 2030 climate targets, an additional 860 billion euros would have to be invested in Germany, the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) has determined on behalf of the BDI. More than half of this is in the fields of energy and industry. Above all, Russwurm is calling for a German infrastructure program with better power grids, more wind and solar parks, hydrogen capacities and significantly more charging stations.

“Make climate neutrality a trademark of the German economy”

Several companies want to drive the energy transition. Eleven corporations such as Deutsche Post, ThyssenKrupp and Wacker Chemie have recently committed to the 1.5-degree path and have joined the UN Race to Zero initiative. The almost 70 German companies gathered in the “2 °” foundation recently demanded a stepped-up implementation campaign for climate neutrality and more specific measures from the future federal government. “The new federal government must now set the framework so that we as entrepreneurs can make climate neutrality the trademark of the German economy,” said Michael Otto, President of the Foundation and Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Otto Group.

A number of entrepreneurs such as Telekom boss Timotheus Höttges, HeidelCement boss Dominik vonhaben, EnBW boss Frank Mastiaux or Siemens chief technology manager Peter Körte recently presented “Germany’s New Agenda”, a roadmap for future governments, together with scientists and experts. Roland Berger is in charge.

Investments doubled since 2009

The industry has now recognized the importance of fighting climate change. According to calculations by the Federal Statistical Office, the corporations have doubled their climate protection investments within ten years – from 1.6 billion euros in 2009 to almost 3.5 billion euros in 2019. Most of the money went into expanding renewable energies. A third of the investments went into energy efficiency and saving.

BASF is building its own wind farm

Especially corporations from the particularly energy-intensive industries are rushing ahead. The chemical company BASF wants to reduce emissions by 30 percent by 2030 compared to 2018 and achieve climate neutrality by 2050. Among other things, the large steam splitter in the Ludwigshafen plant is no longer to be heated with gas, but with renewable energies. The chemical company gets its green electricity from its own wind farm on the North Sea. The BASF site in Ludwigshafen, with eight million tons of CO2 emissions per year, accounts for around one percent of total German CO2 emissions.

According to the Association of the Chemical Industry (VCI), the climate-neutral conversion will require a lot of electricity and it will be as cheap as possible. The representatives of the chemical companies estimate that the electricity demand of the industry will increase more than tenfold to 628 terawatt hours by the middle of the 2030s. That would be more than the entire German electricity consumption at the moment.

Steel constructors are tinkering with “green steel”

The steel industry is also looking to climate protection. Salzgitter and ThyssenKrupp convert plants for the production of “green steel”. In doing so, they rely on massive federal aid. ThyssenKrupp wants to become climate neutral by 2050 – but only if politicians create an infrastructure for green hydrogen, emphasizes CEO Martina Merz. Instead of the classic blast furnaces, direct reduction plants are required for “green steel”. Liquid iron is no longer produced there, but a solid sponge iron that is refined into crude steel. So far, direct reduction has worked with natural gas. The natural gas will soon be replaced by hydrogen.

ThyssenKrupp wants to commission its first new type of direct reduction plant in 2024. Salzgitter is planning a similar facility for the middle of the decade. The technical conversion will cost billions. The steel industry is one of the largest German greenhouse gas emitters. Around a third of all industrial emissions come from the iron and steel works. Experts see the shift in strategy to “green steel” as the last chance of survival for the battered German steel industry.

Cement industry relies on CO2 capture

There is also a lot of movement in the cement industry. She works primarily on the separation of CO2 in the cement works. HeidelbergCement has started a pilot project in Norway in which 400,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide are captured each year, then liquefied and finally pumped into empty oil fields under the seabed. McKinsey’s management consultants recommend developing new, less climate-damaging cement mixes. So far, most of the CO2 has been generated in the production of clinker.

In addition, individual entrepreneurs are particularly committed to climate protection. For example Dirk Rossmann. Disarmament can save a lot of money and put it into climate protection, argues the drugstore billionaire, who is one of the richest people in the country. Rossmann is now active as a writer. His latest climate protection thriller “The Wrath of the Octopus” has just come out and made it onto the bestseller list. With thrillers you can motivate people for climate protection rather than with factual arguments, says Rossmann.

Billions in investments needed

Six trillion euros in investments are necessary to make Germany climate neutral – McKinsey has calculated in a study. But only one trillion euros of that would be real new investments. The rest would therefore only have to be rededicated. Instead of cars with internal combustion engines, e-vehicles should be subsidized.


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