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LESS: Background

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The global steel industry accounts for around 7 per cent of global CO2 emissions. In Germany, the industry emits around 55 million tonnes of CO2 per year and is responsible for a third of total emissions in the industrial sector. The decarbonisation of the steel industry is therefore a key prerequisite for achieving climate targets, whether national or global.

A successful transformation requires clear rules and verifiable standards that make progress towards climate neutrality measurable and assessable. Although concepts for this have been discussed for some time, they have not yet been put into practice. This is precisely where LESS enters the picture. For the first time, LESS is offering a standardised classification and calculation method of low-emission steel that is widely supported by the industry, thus supporting the purchase of climate-friendly products, enabling the formation of “green lead markets” and is therefore an important element in the successful transformation of the steel industry.

Who can use the Low Emission Steel Standard and who is behind it?

LESS is open to all companies that want to voluntarily map, communicate, and verify their progress in reducing their climate-relevant emissions during steel production up to the hot-rolled product. LESS was developed by the German Steel Association and its member companies, takes up the proposal for a definition of low-emission steel that was developed in the stakeholder process conducted by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK), and puts this proposal into practice. In addition to the steel producing industry, the steel processing sectors, representatives of the scientific community, think tanks, and steel traders took part in the BMWK’s stakeholder process in several meetings in 2022 and 2023.

LESS combines approaches from existing initiatives in the steel sector to define low-emission steel and builds in particular on the internationally recognised proposal of the International Energy Agency (IEA), which was recognised by the G7 climate and energy ministers in May 2022 as a robust starting point – and develops it further in a practical way. LESS uses a classification system to map the gradual transformation of the sector. LESS is open to all technologies and makes the climate ambitions of the produced steel visible and comparable, regardless of the production method used. Accompanying the BMWK stakeholder process, experts from the German Steel Association and its member companies, with the support of the consultancy FutureCamp, developed rules for calculating emissions up to the hot-rolled product and summarised them in a rulebook. The rulebook was adapted as part of the stakeholder process in consultation with the BMWK and explains the approach developed there in detail. This now provides a calculation standard that makes it possible to classify and certify steel products according to their CO2 emissions.

With the introduction of LESS as a voluntary option for labelling the emission intensity of hot-rolled steel, the German Steel Association, flanked by the BMWK, is implementing the label for climate-friendly basic materials for the steel industry addressed in the Steel Action Concept, the National Hydrogen Strategy and the Industrial Strategy.

Find out more about the LESS labelling system

Pictures: Adobe Stock/Summit Art Creations; worldsteel/Gregor Schläger