Climate neutrality roadmap for the corrugated cardboard industry
In a context where consumer awareness and expectations around packaging are rising, and where climate change is becoming a major concern, The European Federation of Corrugated Board Manufacturers (FEFCO) commissioned CLIMACT to conduct a study around the cardboard sector’s plan to achieve climate neutrality by the year 2050. This work responds to the EU Green Deal goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80-95% by 2050.
This ambition covers the sector’s full carbon footprint (scope 1 to 3) and aims to work with the entire value chain to achieve this goal (cradle-to grave). To put the sector on a credible pathway towards climate neutrality, a Climate Neutrality Roadmap was developed by Climact, in close cooperation with FEFCO and its members.
The roadmap lays out key milestones, the most plausible scenarios, the required investments, and the necessary policy measures to reach this goal.
In 2021, the European corrugated cardboard industry produced 55,7 Billion m2 of corrugated board. As a packaging material, it scores strong on several sustainability dimensions as it is a highly circular and easy-to-recycle material. Regarding climate change and GHG emissions, the production, transport and end-of-life treatment of corrugated cardboard packaging leads to GHG emissions and removals throughout various steps in the supply chain. In 2020, the total carbon footprint was 491 kg CO2 eq. per ton produced.
When looking at the different sources of emissions throughout the supply chain, upstream emissions from paper production are by far the largest source of GHG emissions (55%), followed by the sector’s own energy use (20%), upstream transport (10%) and incineration at end-of-life (15%, mainly biogenic emissions). By approximation, the sector’s aggregated carbon footprint amounted to 11,5 million tons of CO2 eq. in 2020.
The sector’s output is expected to increase considering the social economic and demographic changes and growing market demand. Without additional efforts, this could increase the sector’s footprint to 17,6 Mt CO2 eq. by 2050. However, the sector has the ambition to decrease its total carbon footprint, and to achieve climate neutrality by no later than 2050. Achieving this ambition will require significant efforts – both by the sector and its suppliers and customers across three dimensions:
(1) The material efficiency and circularity of the sector can be further improved. This can reduce the sector’s footprint by 3,3 Mt CO2 eq. (or 19%) in 2050 compared to Business As Usual (BAU).
(2) The sector can further improve its energy efficiency and decarbonize its energy mix.
This would reduce the sector’s footprint by a further 2,8 Mt CO2 eq. (or 16%) in 2050 compared to BAU.
(3) The bulk of the reductions will however have to be achieved upstream, and in particular by reducing the climate footprint of paper production. If the paper sector reduces its (fossil) carbon footprint by -80% by 2050 (in line with the CEPI Roadmap), this would allow the corrugated cardboard sector to achieve climate neutrality. If the paper sector fully phases out its fossil emissions, the corrugated cardboard sector could even become climate negative.
Regarding energy consumption, improvements in material and energy efficiency could significantly reduce the energy consumption. They enable the sector to reduce its energy consumption by 22% even if production increases by 45%. Still, even with a reduction in energy consumption, implementing the roadmap would significantly increase the demand for climate-neutral energy carriers, such as renewable electricity and bio-based fuels.
The ambitions of the corrugated cardboard sector’s Climate Neutrality Roadmap can only be achieved if a set of enabling conditions are met.
- First, as the corrugated sector will have to make significant investments to achieve climate neutrality(in particular to improve its energy efficiency and decarbonize its energy supply) a stable and predictable regulatory framework is required to support and steer investments in electric boiler and fuel switches.
- Second, despite ambitious energy efficiency improvements, achieving climate neutrality will significantly increase the sector’s demand for climate-neutral energy carriers. Hence, policy makers need to put measures in place to ensure a sufficient, secure and affordable supply of carbon neutral energy carriers.
- Besides, existing energy infrastructure needs to be reinforced and extended.
- Finally, as most of the corrugated cardboard’s carbon footprint comes from indirect emissions within its value chain, key policies and measures are needed to improve the quality of waste streams and to enable the decarbonisation of the paper and transport industry.
Reduction of the paper sector (fossil) carbon footprint by 80% by 2050 (in line with the current paper industry roadmap) can allow the corrugated cardboard sector to achieve climate neutrality.Share
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