2050 Industrial decarbonisation roadmaps

We worked with the then Department of Energy and Climate Change to develop a series of pathways to help energy-intensive industries dramatically reduce their CO2 emissions using a range of technology options.


  • United Kingdom


  • Department of Energy and Climate Change

Project Value

  • £375,000

Project Status

  • Phase one completed 2015; Phase two 2017

If the  UK is to meet its legal decarbonisation obligations for 2050, energy-intensive industries will need to significantly reduce their CO2 emissions. DECC wanted to know how far the highest emitting sectors could decarbonise, and which decarbonisation technologies could achieve the reductions.

DECC retained WSP and partners DNV-GL to develop industrial decarbonisation roadmaps for eight sectors:

  1. Refining
  2. Chemicals
  3. Iron and steel
  4. Cement
  5. Ceramics
  6. Food and drink
  7. Pulp and Paper
  8. Glass

In 2012, these sectors had combined CO2 emissions of 81 million tonnes.

Developing the roadmaps was no easy task. Extrapolating out to 2050 required many assumptions on developments in each sector and in new decarbonisation technologies. We also had to balance the aspirations of government and industry by developing low-carbon roadmaps that could maintain industrial competitiveness.

Total technically achievable CO2 reduction
73% 73%
Deadline for decarbonisation
2050 2050
Industrial sectors covered
8 8

Developing decarbonisation pathways

Liaising with trade associations, manufacturers, academic experts and government, we developed a series of decarbonisation pathways setting out CO2 emissions from 2012 through to 2050. These ranged from a ‘business as usual’ pathway, in which no additional technologies would be implemented, to a ‘maximum technically feasible’ pathway in which all potential low-carbon technologies were implemented to the greatest possible extent. We identified the technology options from an extensive review of the literature and discussions with sector experts.

For example, we identified that the maximum technically feasible COreduction for the cement sector was just over 50% by 2050 (an annual COreduction of just over four million tonnes). Implementing carbon capture and storage was responsible for over 60% of this reduction, with fuel-switching to biomass responsible for a further quarter.

We presented the draft pathways at a series of workshops, so that representatives from each industry sector could review and comment. This enabled us to incorporate a range of perspectives into final roadmaps, summarising the decarbonisation potential for each sector across a range of pathways and the key technologies for each sector.

Identifying barriers and enablers

We also asked key industrial actors for their views on the barriers and enablers that hold back and facilitate decarbonisation in each sector, collating the information in each of the sector reports. In addition, we identified a series of actions for government, industry and others to facilitate decarbonisation in each sector.

In phase two of the project, again working with DNV-GL, we developed action plans for the eight industry sectors. These action plans set out concrete steps that can be taken to develop and implement decarbonisation technologies, with buy-in from government, trade associations and industry.