Creating “green steel” will require the industry’s biggest overhaul since the Industrial Revolution, a report has warned.
Sector chiefs want government help in switching to more environmentally-friendly production so Britain can become the first country to produce net-zero steel.
They fear that importing more metal will boost polluting foreign firms rather than bolster the UK’s industry.
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In a 55-page report, Net Zero: A Vision for the Future of UK Steel Production, published today, trade body UK Steel warns: “If the world is to have any hope of halting climate change, we must find ways of producing steel without the emissions.
“This represents the most significant transformation of the sector since the Industrial Revolution with numerous technical, economic and policy challenges to overcome very quickly.
“The UK has consistently been at the vanguard of climate action, a first mover and figurehead for action and we are once again well placed to show leadership, forming a long-term industry and government partnership to deliver the world’s first net-zero steel sector.”
The UK steel sector is blamed for 14% of the UK’s industrial emissions and 2.7% of all Britain’s greenhouse gases.
At the same time, producers are urging customers and the Government to buy more UK steel to boost the British economy and cut Britain’s reliance on foreign imports.
The Climate Change Committee has recommended emissions from the production of iron and steel in the UK fall to near zero by the mid 2030s.
However, there is so far no specific commitment from ministers to delivering “clean steel” within a defined period.
Unveiling the UK Steel report in Westminster, its director-general Gareth Stace said: “No steel sector or steel company in the world has yet successfully decarbonised.
“There is a first-mover opportunity for the UK to become the first steel sector which delivers on net zero.”
Mike Thompson, director of analysis at the Government’s advisory Climate Change Committee, said: “We will not be able to tackle climate change unless the steel sector plays its part – and of course the steel sector will not be able to get to net-zero unless the industry offers leadership and unless the Government backs them.”
Neil Johnson, director of infrastructure and materials at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, admitted: “We have to transition to low-carbon steel making.”
British Steel’s chief commercial officer Allan Bell warned the decarbonisation of the industry is “crucial in our fight to tackle climate change”.
He said the company planned to replace a high-polluting blast furnace at its Scunthorpe site with an electric arc furnace by 2027, and develop carbon capture and storage by the end of the decade so the remaining blast furnace could “significantly reduce its CO2 emissions”.
The Mirror has been campaigning to Save Our Steel since the industry was hit by plant closures and thousands of job losses in 2015.