The Global Steel Climate Council (GSCC) released The Steel Climate Standard to measure and report steel carbon emissions on Aug 3, 2023. However, the new standard is being opposed by a coalition of civil society organizations.
On Aug 22, the coalition published an open letter calling on policymakers, steelmakers, and buyers to disregard the GSCC standard claiming it was created to influence the US-EU trade agreements and favors only a few steelmakers in prosperous nations rather than “creating a mechanisms to meaningfully decarbonize global steelmaking.”
The release, supported by E3G, SteelWatch and other organizations, noted “this standard fails to incorporate a multi stakeholder process, is not globally relevant, and ignores the full environmental & social impacts of steelmaking.”
However, Phillip Bell, President Steel Manufacturers Association (SMA) said, “The GSCC standard is key at two levels. First, it is process agnostic and can apply globally, and secondly, it allows for other steelmaking technologies that will come down the road. The standard focuses on the absolute value of carbon emissions.”
Bell added, “The press release and comments are very concerning because many comments are false.” He noted that the GSCC standard is fully aligned with the International Energy Agency (IEA) pathway and in line with the International Agency Climate budget. Bell informed that the GSCC is built on sound science-based principles and is straightforward and easy to understand while it ensures that anyone who uses the standard will meet the 1.5pc degree reduction objective. Moreover, the standard was established only after following a public comment and extended comments period prior to proceeding.
“If we are worried about emissions, we must focus on the climate, a global issue, and the impact on it from steel mills. The level of emissions is fully measurable alongside the absolute value of emissions reductions,” continued Bell.
The critical organizations are concerned that the GSCC “fails to meaningfully incentivize countries like China and India to decarbonize their steel industries.” Bell refuted that while ESG as a whole is important, it is difficult for an environmental standard to have enforcement mechanisms, and the focus should be on emission-reduction, which directly correlates to the climate. Bell redirected to other mechanisms for human rights and worker concerns, which have local dynamics, and offered the GSCC as a good trade standard since it will motivate overall better practices and clear metrics.
“We are focused on getting carbon out of the air. Other ESG issues have more local rules,” Bell said. He elaborated that the idea of the GSCC only focusing on electric arc furnace (EAF) or US producers is incorrect. “There are more European steel members in the GSCC than US members, and members have various operations in over 80 countries,” he stated.
Bell is concerned that the wrong perspective could lead to more investments in blast furnaces, including large relining investments, which extends their use for 20-25 years of higher emitting production.
EU and other regions are shifting to EAFs, but primary raw materials are anticipated to continue due to insufficient recycled materials for full transfer to meet global steel needs. Electric arc furnaces consume 70-100pc recycled materials, while the blast furnace (BF) route uses up to 30pc.
“The GSCC is fully aligned and supports most aspects of the Science Based Target Initiative (SBTI) coming in September 2023, except the dual standard sliding scale,” said Bell. Many concepts and methodologies for the GSCC were taken from the SBTI and IEA standards.