Steel Climate Standard eases rebar, structural product carbon calculations

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Sources: Global Steel Climate Council, Washington, D.C.; Nucor Corp., Charlotte, N.C.; CMCM staff

The new Steel Climate Standard represents a fair, effective, unbiased tool to measure greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with concrete reinforcing or structural steel, as well as a single, technology-agnostic framework for product certification. Along with providing customers in construction and manufacturing sectors a protocol behind embodied carbon calculations, the Global Steel Climate Council (GSCC) document sets industry emissions reduction benchmarks through 2050 aligning the Paris Climate Agreement. With a unit of measure defined as one ton of carbon dioxide emissions equivalent (t CO2e) for hot rolled material, the Steel Climate Standard charts glidepaths for flat and long steel product intensities, respectively declining from 1.84 and 1.47 t CO2e in 2022 to 0.12 t CO2e in 2050. The separate glidepaths reflect flat and long products’ differing chemical composition.

The standard is posted at

“The Steel Climate Standard measures carbon emissions for all steel the same way, no matter where or how it was made,” says Philip Bell, president of the Steel Manufacturers Association, a founding GSCC member. “That approach makes it easy for steel buyers to determine which steel has the lowest embodied carbon. That’s important because construction firms, governments and other buyers of steel need to know how much embodied carbon is in all the material they use in their own products and projects.”

Steel Climate Standard authors use five guiding principles to build a certification framework: Scientific, Quantitative, Comprehensive, Principled and Transparent. Much like an Environmental Product Declaration, they establish a system boundary so the document encompasses all GHG compounds from Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions. They span a steel producer’s Direct (all core processes), Electricity Indirect (power source carbon footprint) and Other Indirect (supplier, supply chain) emissions per the joint World Resources Institute and World Business Council on Sustainable Development GHG Protocol. 

In contrast to the GSCC effort, global policymakers are considering a two-part emissions standard, one for steel made from coal and iron ore, the second for material milled from recycled scrap. “Creating a dual standard would allow high-carbon emissions steel to be prioritized over lower carbon steel,” observes GSCC Chair and Nucor Corp. General Counsel Greg Murphy. “This would serve to discourage innovation and allow high-carbon steelmakers to postpone making changes in their production process.”

“No steel should be called clean, green, low-carbon, or responsible if its production generates four or five times as many greenhouse gas emissions as the same steel made by a competitor with a cleaner process,” adds Bell. “Steelmakers whose products have higher carbon intensity will have to change their processes to meet the Steel Climate Standard. And that must happen if we are to meet global emissions reduction goals.”

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