“Human influence has warmed the climate at an unprecedented rate for at least the past 2,000 years” is the unequivocal statement made by the IPCC in its 6th report. We know the dramatic consequences from an ecological, economic and social point of view… While there is no way back for some climate changes, according to the group of experts, others could be stopped or at least slowed down by limiting greenhouse gas emissions. Action is therefore urgently needed.

To achieve the carbon-neutral targets set out in the National Low-Carbon Strategy (SNBC), the industrial sector must reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 81% by 2050, compared with 2015 levels. This sector, which accounts for almost 20% of France’s emissions, is being asked to rethink its entire value chain and find greener alternatives.

With the aim of supporting and encouraging the ecological transition of industries, the Government has put in place a number of policies to encourage a shift away from fossil fuels and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, in particular through the use of new technologies, including those covered by the IED directive.

While the decarbonisation of industry has become a major challenge in the fight against global warming, it is not just a climate imperative; it is also a performance and competitiveness issue for industries, boosting technological innovation and becoming a criterion of choice for customers and investors.

Understanding the decarbonisation of industry

The decarbonisation of industry aims to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), and more broadly of greenhouse gases (GHGs), from industrial activities. It contributes fully to the fight against climate change and includes measures such as adopting green technologies, improving energy efficiency, using renewable energy sources, replacing fossil fuels and capturing and storing CO2.

Industry is one of the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, particularly glass, cement, chemicals, petrochemicals and metallurgy. By reducing emissions from this sector, we can mitigate the harmful effects of climate change and limit the environmental, social and economic damage: rising temperatures and sea levels, extreme weather phenomena such as floods and drought, melting glaciers, dwindling water resources, poor air and water quality, the risk of food insecurity and respiratory or cardiovascular diseases, risks to the profitability and viability of industrial and agricultural businesses, and the risk of tension and conflict at local, national and international level.

What policies and initiatives are needed to decarbonise industry?

France has set itself the ambitious target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the industrial sector by 35% between 2015 and 2030, and of making France “a pioneer in low-carbon industry”. A wide range of measures, including ecological planning, have been put in place to support the decarbonisation of industry.

The French programme “PACTE Industrie”

Endowed with €49 million over 3 years, the PACTE Industrie aims to initiate a change of scale in industry’s commitment to decarbonisation. It supports manufacturers in structuring their approach to energy and low-carbon transition, through training, studies and coaching. It should be noted that 40-80% of the training costs are financed, and 50-70% of the studies and coaching.

The programme covers three aspects: energy management (identification of energy efficiency levers and transformation of the energy mix, implementation of the ISO 50 001 standard), decarbonisation strategy (assessment of ambitions in relation to the objectives of the Paris Agreement, development of the investment strategy and trajectory) and financing (development of the plan by defining financing methods, analysis of the technical and economic risks and identification of the key arguments for convincing funders, for example).

To find out more about the PACTE Industrie, visit the dedicated page on the French agency for ecological transition (ADEME) website. On the same site, you can also check your eligibility and prepare your application.

The France 2030 investment plan

Operated by ADEME, the France 2030 plan follows on from the France Recovery Plan. This investment plan, worth €54 billion over 5 years, is designed to boost the competitiveness of industries, invest massively in innovative technologies and support the ecological transition.

In its “Better Production” section, the plan devotes €5 billion to projects to decarbonise industrial sites and €600 million to innovation and the development of technologies for a low-carbon economy, notably via calls for projects such as DECARB IND and DECARB IND+ (already closed) or ACT ® France 2024. Watch out for these calls for projects on the ADEME website.

 Ecological transition contracts for the industries and sites with the highest emissions

The government has introduced ecological transition contracts for the industries and sites with the highest emissions, with the 50 highest-emitting industrial sites alone accounting for 60% of industrial emissions and 12% of total national greenhouse gas emissions. These tripartite contracts between the State, the local authority and the company are designed to contractually commit manufacturers to reducing their emissions by at least 45% by 2030, with administrative and financial assistance (via subsidies) from the State. So far, 32 contracts have been signed with these manufacturers, including global steel giant ArcelorMittal and one of the world’s largest cement producers, Heidelberg Materials.

What breakthrough technologies are needed to decarbonise industry?

As part of the France 2030 plan, four innovative technologies necessary for decarbonisation have been identified:

  • Decarbonised hydrogen: for economic reasons, 95% of “conventional” hydrogen is produced from fossil sources using processes that emit a lot of CO2. In contrast, “decarbonated” or “green” hydrogen is an energy source (but also an energy carrier used to transport energy produced from a primary source) that is said to be “clean” since neither its production nor its use generates CO2. It is mainly produced by electrolysis, using water and electricity, generally from renewable sources. It is an alternative to fossil fuels, particularly for chemical and steelmaking processes.
  • Biomass: biomass is all organic matter of animal or plant origin that can be used as a source of energy. It includes materials from forestry (wood chips, branches, sawmill waste, etc.), agriculture (dedicated crops, crop residues, intermediate crops and livestock effluents), food and urban waste (sewage sludge, green waste, waste from catering, distribution, the agri-food industry, fishing, etc.). This biomass can be used to produce the high-temperature heat needed in the chemical, agri-food or construction materials production sectors, for example.
  • Process electrification: this technique consists of replacing the fossil fuels used to power the equipment and machines in industrial processes with electricity (preferably from renewable sources). It is mainly used to produce the heat needed for certain industrial processes. For furnaces, turbines or steam cracker boilers, for example.
  • Carbon capture, use and storage (CCUS): this technique makes it possible to capture CO2 from industrial processes so that it can be reused or stored permanently underground, in deep geological formations. It can be used in petrochemicals, metallurgy, cement and coal-fired power stations, thereby limiting CO2 emissions into the atmosphere and helping to combat global warming.


Decarbonising industry: the example of ArcelorMittal

The world’s leading steel group, ArcelorMittal has developed a carbon-free steel, XCarb ® steel. This steel is made from recycled steel in an electric arc furnace powered by 100% renewable electricity. The CO2 emissions of products made from XCarb® are almost 70% lower than those of the same product made without this innovative steel.

As part of its contract with the French government, ArcelorMittal has also announced its intention to decarbonise its Dunkerque (France) site by replacing a blast furnace with electric furnaces. This work alone should reduce CO2 emissions from the industrial sector in France by 6%.

Decarbonising industry, a lever for environmental and economic performance

Decarbonising industry represents a crucial challenge and a major opportunity in the fight against climate change. This transition requires a holistic approach, combining technological innovation, ambitious public policies and close collaboration between public and private players.

With government support and concrete initiatives, industry can transform the challenges of decarbonisation into a driving force for progress towards a cleaner, more sustainable and more resilient economy.

Register to our newsletter

Stay up to date with industry news


Share This

Share this post with your network!