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Will the steel industry go public on emissions?

Published by MAC on 2007-10-25

Will the steel industry go public on emissions?

25th October 2007

A proposal by the world's leading promoter of steel manufacture to collect data on global greenhouse gas emissions has run into controversy within the industry itself.

Some companies are in favour of freely publishing the information; others - including the sector leader, Arcelor-Mittal - are not.

Steelmakers urged to monitor emissions

By Peter Marsh in London, Financial Times

25th October2007

The steel industry is divided over the merits of publicly disclosing data from an ambitious environmental monitoring scheme that it plans to start to help combat global warming.

The Brussels-based International Iron and Steel Institute, which represents most of the world’s top steelmakers, intends to encourage all leading steelmakers to collect information from plants about how much carbon dioxide they emit. The data could be used to draw up performance standards for the best and worst in terms of how much carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas implicated in global warming, they produce per tonne of steel manufactured.

Steel plants produce about 4 per cent of total man-made worldwide carbon dioxide emissions. [* see Editorial note below]

In terms of drawing up such environmental monitoring plans, the steel industry is thought to be ahead of other large global businesses, such as electricity generation, cement and chemicals.

Data from the steel initiative could be used to help draw up a policy framework for handing out permits for steel producers’ carbon dioxide emissions – used to reward companies with high environmental standards and penalise those that are less good – in a new protocol for global environmental policy after the Kyoto treaty expires in 2012.

In the European Union steelmakers are already covered by an emissions trading scheme, which means they receive a quota for how much carbon they can produce and must buy extra quota from other companies.

However, senior steel industry executives disagree on whether data from the programme, which as the project is currently constituted would be kept out of the public domain, should be freely available for inspection by outside groups.

Lakshmi Mittal, chief executive and owner of Luxembourg-based Arcelor Mittal, the world’s biggest steelmaker, said he had yet to be convinced the steel industry would benefit from sharing data with the outside world.

“I think we should concentrate on getting the mathematics right [for finalising a way of making sure emissions data from individual plants could be compared legitimately] before discussing whether to make the information public.”

Kirby Adams, chief executive of Bluescope, Australia’s biggest steel producer, said making data public would have “little bearing” on how successful individual steelmakers were on curbing carbon dioxide output.

Some in the industry think making the data public could give away information useful to rivals, for instance clues as to profitability, while others think publishing the information would be a bureaucratic burden.

However, executives at Voestalpine, Austria’s biggest steelmaker, are in favour of at least limited public disclosure of information to enable comparisons between plants to be made. Sakari Tamminen, chief executive of Rautaruukki, Finland’s biggest steel producer, said: “I don’t see any reason why this [the IISI scheme] should not be transparent.”

Wolfgang Leese, chief executive at Salzgitter, a large German steelmaker, said: “If other companies in the industry agree to open their books [about carbon dioxide emissions] then we’d do it as well. It’s no problem for us.”

Tony Juniper, vice-chairman of Friends of the Earth International, the environmental pressure group, said: “This project ... is to be encouraged. However, I’d support the idea that they [steelmakers] make the data from the monitoring programme as transparent as possible ... The days when industrial groups thought they could gain an advantage by keeping information like this hidden from view are long gone.”

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007

* MAC Editorial note: The Financial Times itself published last month an article alleging that steel manufacture contributed between 5% and 6% of Global Greenhouse Gas emissions with China alone providing 3% of the total. See:


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