Walloon cement and steel companies invest €346 million to half CO2

Five significant companies in Wallonia are pledging to invest 346 million euros in their plants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. So reports the business newspaper L’Echo.

They are cement companies Holcim, CCB, and CBR and metal companies Aperam and Industeel. Together, they are responsible for annual CO2 emissions of 2 415 million tons. They are also receiving financial support from Wallonia and the EU for the investment.

Top polluters

The goal is now to reduce those emissions by 49%. All multinational companies with factories in Wallonia applied for investment support following a call in July 2023.

The quintet’s plants are all located in the historic triangle between Tournai, Mons, and Charleroi, once the spearhead of Wallonia’s steel industry. Industeel and Aperam, respectively, a subsidiary and spin-off of steel giant ArcelorMittal, are global players in that area.

Switzerland’s Holcim, Compagnie des Ciments Belges (CCB), and CBR, owned by Germany’s Heidelberg Materials, specialize in building materials, specifically cement, for example, for mobility projects.

The cement industry is one of the main contributors to climate change, responsible for 8% of global emissions. In Germany, of all companies traded on the DAX stock market index, Heidelberg Materials is the second largest CO2 emitter. It operates in over 50 countries, with 60 000 employees working at 3 000 production sites.

In the Israeli-occupied West Bank, it also owns a cement plant, and the minerals produced are brought to Israel without any benefit to the Palestinian communities. The group expects a turnover of 22,6 billion euros this year and a current operating result between 2,85 and 3 billion euros.

With support from JTF

The five companies together account for 2 606 full-time jobs in Belgium, but what the Port of Antwerp is to Flanders, the quintet is also to Wallonia: one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases.

They now want to reduce CO2 emissions by using fewer fossil fuels and focusing more on green energy (recovering waste heat, building wind turbines, etc.).

Of the 346 million euros to be invested, 169 million euros will come from the Walloon Region (60%) and Europe (40%) via the European Just Transition Fund (JTF). At the same time, some 167 new jobs would also be created.

The Just Transition Fund is part of the European Green Deal investment plan to ensure no one and no region is left behind in transitioning to a climate-neutral economy. The total budget of the fund for the period 2021-2027 is 19,3 billion euros.

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