Decarbonizing the cement industry: Findings from coupling prospective life cycle assessment of clinker with integrated assessment model scenarios

Amelie Müller*, Carina Harpprecht, Romain Sacchi, Ben Maes, Mariësse van Sluisveld, Vassilis Daioglou, Branko Šavija, Bernhard Steubing

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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In the race to achieve global climate neutrality, carbon intensive industries like the clinker and cement industry are required to decarbonize rapidly. The environmental impacts related to potential transition pathways to low-carbon systems can be evaluated using prospective life cycle assessment (pLCA). This study conducts a pLCA for future global clinker production, integrating long-term transition pathways from the IMAGE integrated assessment model (IAM) to maintain global consistency. It systematically modifies the ecoinvent v3.9.1 database using the Python library premise to create future database versions representing future clinker production embedded in a future economy according to a 3.5°C-baseline, a 2°C-compliant and a 1.5°C-compliant scenario. Our study indicates that climate change impacts of clinker production may decrease from about 1.03 kg CO2-eq/kg clinker in 2020 to 0.94 (3.5°C-baseline), 0.20 (2°C-compliant), and 0.16 (1.5°C-compliant) kg CO2-eq/kg clinker in 2060 for the global average. This corresponds to a 10% (3.5°C-baseline), 81% (2°C-compliant) and 84% (1.5°C-compliant) decrease by 2060 compared to 2020. Under these scenarios, global clinker production alone would require 5%–11% of the remaining end-of-century carbon budget for the 2 °C and 1.5 °C-target, respectively. While the climate change impacts are substantially reduced, our study also indicates that the transition pathways shift the burden towards other impact categories, such as ionizing radiation, ozone depletion, material resources and land use. Developing IAM-compatible scenarios for more product groups helps to increase the coherence of pLCA studies. As this study is based on an IAM heavily reliant on carbon capture and storage and bioenergy, future research should explore the effects of different technology pathways and alternative mitigation strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number141884
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Publication statusPublished - 2024


  • Carbon capture
  • Climate change
  • Clinker
  • Industry decarbonization
  • Integrated assessment models
  • Prospective life cycle assessment
  • Scenarios


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