Construction material emissions to peak by 2030, not 2025

Emissions from China’s construction materials industry are now expected to peak by 2030 – in line with the country’s overall carbon-peaking deadline, but five years after the industry’s own proposal

Last year, the leading industry association had called upon the whole sector to peak by 2025, and the cement subsector to do so even earlier, by 2023. 

Four central government agencies announced the 2030 peaking date on Wednesday (9 November) in a carbon-peaking plan specific to the construction materials industry. 

The later date suggests a general adjustment to the pace of industrial decarbonisation, reflecting government preference for balancing climate actions with economic stability and other political imperatives. Earlier this year, a similar plan for the steel sector also moved its peak date from 2025 to 2030.

Construction materials account for about 13% of China’s carbon emissions, making them the third-largest industrial source of emissions, after power and steel. 

To decarbonise the industry, the new plan features four main strategies.

The first and foremost is to continue eliminating energy-inefficient cement and glass production and to prevent new facilities from being built. For years, these subsectors have suffered from over-capacity, a burden both for the environment and the financial sector. Strict capacity-control measures will be in place over the next five to ten years to rein in any further expansion of supplies. 

The other strategies focus on: fuel change (promoting electrification and replacing coal with natural gas, biomass and renewables); material substitution (replacing carbon-releasing limestone in cement production with recycled solid wastes); and technological innovation.

Both carrots and sticks will guide the industry toward carbon peaking, the plan shows. Government procurement is expected to favour low-carbon construction materials and banks are encouraged to finance carbon-reduction projects within the industry. 

As for sticks, energy-intensive facilities should expect higher power prices and punitive control measures on smoggy days. The idea of including cement in the national carbon market will also be explored, to force the industry to factor in a carbon price.