Industries have warned that the feared cement shortage will hamper climate change in Sweden. But the claim is being questioned by researchers. “This can rather speed up climate change,” says Tove Malmqvist Stigell, sustainability researcher at KTH.
Since the Supreme Land and Environmental Court rejected Cementa’s application for a new permit for lime mining in Slite on Gotland, the horror scenario from several industries has been painted. Among other things, the industry organization Swedish Concrete and LKAB have warned that the feared shortage of cement threatens Sweden’s climate change.
This is because large construction projects that are part of the climate change are in need of concrete, and the cement would instead need to be imported from countries such as Turkey, Algeria and China, Malin Löfsjögård, CEO of Swedish Concrete, has previously told TT.
But the arguments are dubious, says Tove Malmqvist Stigell, sustainability researcher at KTH. Although the transport of large quantities of cement would mean an increased climate impact compared with if the production took place in Sweden, in general the emissions from transport are significantly lower than for producing cement.
– Above all, it is linked to the idea that electrification of society is part of climate change, and that it then needs to be built in part. Since concrete is the most used building material, it is thought that it could inhibit that development, says Tove Malmqvist Stigell.
Cement large climate bow
Cement accounts for eight percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. Whether the cement is manufactured in Sweden or elsewhere is currently of limited importance, says Tove Malmqvist Stigell.
– The use of conventional concrete accounts for a high proportion of the climate impact from the construction that takes place today. This is the case regardless of whether we build with Cementa’s cement or someone else’s cement, she says.
During the process, large amounts of carbon dioxide are released that were bound in the limestone millions of years ago. In addition, during production you have to reach high temperatures to start chemical processes, and for that a lot of energy is required.
– Then it is a question of which fuels are used in production and still use a significant proportion of fossil fuels, says Tove Malmqvist Stigell.
Today, 90 percent of all apartment buildings are built in concrete. But in recent years, methods for reducing the use of concrete and using other materials instead have been discussed.
In several regions, the aspect is included in the climate initiatives, and large construction companies such as Skanska use so-called green concrete instead of conventional.
Maybe you start looking at reducing the use of concrete or combining materials to a greater extent, says Tove Malmqvist Stigell.
– I rather think that climate change could be accelerated among other actors, who are trying to drive the development of new greener concrete varieties and ways of building that could reduce the climate impact. It could just as easily have that consequence, says Tove Malmqvist Stigell.
“The fear is exaggerated”
Nor does David Kihlberg, climate manager at the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, believe that the decision threatens climate change.
– I think the fear is excessive. There is no talk that we will need cement in the future, but not in the volumes that are now being planned for. We are still building very, very unsustainably, we have large road constructions underway that are in direct conflict with the climate goals, he says.
The nature conservation association’s local organization on Gotland has since the beginning been active in the case of Cementa’s permit process in Slite on Gotland. Like other actors, the association considered that Cementa’s environmental impact assessment was uncertain, and demanded in the first instance that the court reject the application.
– There is a reason why you reject this application and it is because you risk an unacceptable impact on the environment when mining. The companies say that Swedish industry is at the forefront when it comes to climate change, but they do it thanks to Swedish environmental legislation, not despite it, says David Kihlberg.