The International Aluminium Institute (IAI) has today published the most comprehensive greenhouse gas emissions reductions pathways available to the aluminium sector over the next three decades. The pathways are based on the IAI’s unrivalled data and leading analysis of the global aluminium industry.

The new report, Aluminium Sector Greenhouse Gas Pathways to 2050, sets out three credible and realistic approaches to emissions reductions for the aluminium industry, in line with the International Energy Agency’s Beyond 2 Degree Scenario.

While the industry works to reduce its emissions by about 80%, demand for aluminium products is also predicted to grow. Over the coming decades, global demand for primary aluminium will increase by up to 40% and recycled aluminium from post-consumer scrap will more than triple through to 2050, as economies grow, urbanise, and build up their infrastructure.

Simultaneously reducing emissions while meeting increasing demand will require huge investment in production technologies, along with commitment from all along the value chain.

“Emissions reduction is a challenge for every sector. It is, however, a challenge that the aluminium sector is poised to address. Over the last two years, a Greenhouse Gas Pathways Working Group made up of IAI member companies and regional associations has been working to articulate credible ways to achieve global climate goals. This collaboration is what has resulted in the industry’s most comprehensive pathways, which we have published today,” said Miles Prosser, the IAI’s Secretary General.

The pathways are:

1. Electricity decarbonisation - More than sixty percent of the aluminium sector’s 1.1 billion tonnes of CO2e emissions (2018) are from the production of electricity consumed during the smelting process. Decarbonised power generation and the deployment of carbon capture utilisation and storage (CCUS) offer the most significant opportunity to reduce emissions to near zero by 2050.

2. Direct emissions - Emissions from fuel combustion make up 15% of the industry's emissions. Here, electrification, fuel switching to green hydrogen and CCUS offer the most credible pathways. Process emissions make up a further 15% and require new technologies, such as inert anodes. These emissions and those in transport and raw materials will need to be reduced by 50-60% from a Business as Usual (BAU) baseline scenario by 2050.

3. Recycling and resource efficiency - Increasing collection rates to near 100% as well as other resource efficiency progress by 2050 would reduce the need for primary aluminium by 20% compared to BAU, which in turn will cut the sector's emissions by an additional 300 million tonnes of CO2e per year - a figure second in magnitude only to the first pathway, electricity decarbonisation.

Aluminium is vital to our society. Our homes, workplaces, vehicles, digital devices, packaging, buildings that provide shelter and security – to name just a few examples – rely heavily on aluminium.

Aluminium is also integral to global emissions reduction efforts, with solar panels, wind turbines and electric vehicles all depending on it.

Mr Prosser added: “The IAI has collected and produced information on industry emissions for some time now, recently publishing 15 years of emissions data by source and covering all production processes from cradle to gate.

“This includes all the emissions generated in smelting as well as those embedded in raw and secondary materials and the energy that the sector consumes. This is the most comprehensive, detailed and up-to-date dataset that exists not just for aluminium but also any material today.

“This greenhouse gas data and the material flow analysis modelling, which is used to produce robust scenarios for primary and recycled aluminium, underpins the pathways we have unveiled today, which will play a vital role in helping aluminium industry stakeholders choose the necessary actions to achieve global climate goals.

“Sustainability across the full range of issues is central to aluminium’s future, and reductions in greenhouse gases are a critical component of that.”