Aluminium is both an important input to a number of technologies critical to the energy transition, and a significant source of CO2, responsible for about 3% of the world’s 9.4 Gt of direct industrial CO2 emissions in 2021.
Global aluminium production is expected to continue expanding, driven by population and GDP growth. Clean energy transitions will also impact aluminium demand, with potential for upward pressure from technology shifts that require greater use of aluminium, e.g. for lightweight vehicles and solar energy (which uses aluminium for various components).
Material efficiency strategies can help maximise the collection of post-consumer scrap to enable greater secondary production and reduce the total amount of metal used while delivering the same services.
Meanwhile, R&D is needed on innovative alternative production methods that reduce primary production process and combustion emissions, and more energy-efficient equipment and operations would be beneficial.
Given the considerable amount of electricity consumed in the aluminium subsector, decarbonising its power sources would help reduce indirect emissions and is thus a key complement to reducing direct aluminium emissions.
Last updated Oct 5, 2022
Direct CO2 intensity of aluminium production in the Net Zero Scenario, 2018-2030
Further action to reduce emissions intensity will be needed to get on track with the Net Zero Scenario
Direct emissions from the global aluminium sector have been steadily rising over the past decade, driven by increasing production. 2019 saw emissions fall for the first time in a decade as a result of modest improvements in emissions-intensity alongside production levelling off, but this trend has since reversed.
The sector was directly responsible for 275 Mt of CO2 emissions in 2021 (a 2% increase on the previous year) and if indirect emissions from electricity consumption are included, that number jumps to around 1.1 Gt of CO2. The overall average direct CO2 intensity of aluminium has seen only a slight decline over the past few years. In contrast, the Net Zero Scenario sees emissions intensity decline by about 3.5% annually to 2030.