Steel will be essential to the green revolution, but our industry needs help to change | Jacqueline Thomas

When I tell people that steel is an essential part of the solution to the climate crisis, I get a lot of confused looks. The global steel market is currently worth around $ 2.5 billion (£ 1.8 billion) and produces 9% of global emissions. Decarbonization concerns us all, it is quite simply a reality. What is in question is how we, as an industry, choose to adapt. Do we want to see massive disruption and the subsequent loss of thousands of good unionized jobs, or a just transition where jobs are kept and workers are supported to retrain for the new green economy? As a metallurgist, it’s my job at stake if we don’t do it right.

Past experience illustrates the value of a just transition. Take, for example, how unions responded to plant closures in the early 2000s, providing training to thousands of steelworkers to help them move on to other industries, in all fields, from equine dentistry to self-employed roles. Mass recycling was the right answer to a declining industry, but this time around, British steel will have to to grow to support decarbonization because steel is a key element of the green economy. Wind turbines, electric cars and all the other commodities of a green future will need steel. Importing it from abroad is simply a matter of transferring the carbon burden to others; steel transported to the UK produces 50% less CO2. .

So instead of losing jobs, jobs will change. Some are likely to move downstream, and some may be created in facilitation industries such as hydrogen, but many will remain at the heart of the steel industry. The main thing is that members are fully supported to meet these new challenges. The steel industry supports thousands of high quality jobs in some of our most disadvantaged communities. Steel jobs are good union jobs. These are well paying jobs, above the national average, and they support families and communities in doing so. We do not want to see these jobs disappear in any way.

But of course, to ensure the sustainability of the steel industry, you have to think about how we make our steel. Neither employers nor government can abdicate their responsibilities in this regard – they must come to the table ready to make the investment the steel industry needs.

Really positive steps are being taken in Tata, for example, the introduction of a CO2 surtax on each net ton of material sold, money which is then invested to help the sector to decarbonise itself. And at the local level, we’re making small changes that add up, like switching to more energy efficient light bulbs. It doesn’t seem like a big change, but the cumulative impact is significant.

Today, high energy costs make it harder for industry and are counterproductive because all viable, low-carbon solutions for steelmaking require more electricity than what we use today. Therefore, the government must also do something about electricity prices, to ensure that under the circumstances where it makes sense to use arc flash technology or any other technology, it is a sustainable economic model.

Looking to the future, many people believe that hydrogen steelmaking will be the future. But for that to become a reality, the government needs to invest to ensure that the infrastructure is there. The question seems to be who will take the first step. Will companies make a transition to hydrogen or will the government commit to providing the infrastructure to which they can connect?

The steel industry is not standing still. Keeping up with changing technology and reacting to new developments means constantly adapting and reacting – and the climate crisis demands a new wave of innovation, investment and inventive thinking. The government must work with unions and employers to provide the investments needed to keep steel going and support net zero. The cost if we don’t get this right is incalculable. We know that our window to limit the damage done to our planet is closing quickly.

On a more personal level, we have seen what has happened to steelmakers at Redcar when industrial change is not properly managed. Thousands of jobs lost, entire communities without work, ripple effects felt by generations.

I have seen with my own eyes the impact of lost industries. Communities like Aberfan, Merthyr Vale or Ebbw Vale, just three miles from where I lived, have been destroyed by crude industrial policies and ill-equipped to handle the transition to coal. As a child, I remember going with my mother to look for food for the striking miners. I did it once, I don’t want to do it again. We need a greener steel industry, a just transition, and we don’t have time to waste.

Source link

About Joetta Becker

Check Also

Guide to eating well: 5 delicious and healthy alternatives to white rice for Indians

Rice, a staple in almost all Indian diets, is plentiful, readily available, and a common …