Sanjeev Gupta, Executive Chairman of GFG Alliance and LIBERTY Steel Group spoke to the Committee of the Permanent Representatives of the Governments of the Member States to the European Union (COREPER), about LIBERTY’s commitment to becoming carbon neutral by 2030, and how the EU can support that ambition.
To find out more, read the full transcript below. Video of the full speech will be available soon.
At this very moment, beneath our feet, the world is turning at around 1600 km per hour, luckily gravity keeps us standing.
But recently, the world has stopped turning in an orderly manner and started spinning rapidly, seemingly at times out of control.
Whether that is overly gloomy or not, two things seem inescapable: the road ahead is going to be bumpy, and as a result some people have suggested that plans to limit carbon emissions should be put on hold while we sort out the economy
I utterly disagree.
We should be doing both.
In fact, we must do both.
Save the planet for future generations whilst we repair our broken economy.
For too long we have been serving our immediate needs without much thought for the future.
Now, finally things are beginning to change.
And whilst inflation in most developed nations now stands at a crippling
40-year high, with consumer confidence… at a depressing 50-year low,
we cannot ever again afford to forget the needs of our planet, the only
home we’ve ever had.
So, we are all in a pretty bad place, but in very good company.
Bombarded from every side
Squeezed by inflation …
stretched by interest rates, recovering from a very long case of Covid short of stock and, as most companies will tell you: searching for labour.
Across Europe, there are now between 2 and 3 job openings for every
WORK IS CLEARLY ONE OF THE FEW FOUR-LETTER WORDS THAT SEEMS TO BE GOING OUT OF FASHION.
The fact is that since the lockdown, many have reassessed their priorities.
Fewer than one in seven recently surveyed want to go back to the
workplace full time.
Slightly more would prefer to work entirely from home.
As a steelmaker, I am interested to know whether the cities of the future will remain as the motors of growth and civilisation
or, stripped of offices, devoid of retail outlets, are they destined to become a shadow of what they are today?
If so, what is the future, nature of work, and where will we be working?
I’m also interested to see how the new realities of rising prices will affect our behaviour, and especially the way we think about and act towards the environment.
Back in 2018, the EU intergovernmental study on climate concluded that we had 12 years to save that environment.
TWELVE YEARS TO SAVE THE WORLD.
So, will vastly accelerating costs noticeably dampen consumer demand?
Will, substituting carbon intensive products such as beef for vegan alternatives do the trick?
Can walking or cycling more, help halt rising temperatures?
It’s a stark choice:
CHANGE OUR HABITS,
or change our habitat.
Starting several decades ago and with rather more foresight than others, Europe has led the way in trying to decarbonise the future.
Your own governments have had the vision and the drive to ensure they are lighting the way ahead.
But that light only shines so far.
If we are going to keep pushing forward, then we must tackle the carbon problem in a host of different ways and all at the same time.
And we must do that without diminishing or destroying vital industries
and the economic wellbeing they provide.
In my own industry that means recycling far more scrap, so we need to make far less brand-new material.
Where we have no choice but to make afresh, we need to use the most advanced technologies to help us keep the carbon cost to the bare minimum.
For Liberty, those new technologies centre around renewables and
Hydrogen, more of which in a moment.
Whether its scrap or hydrogen or scrap and hydrogen, the costs are high, the upfront investments higher still, but the alternatives will cost us all so very much more in the long run.
TO PARAPHRASE DICKINS: IS IT THE BEST OR THE WORST OF TIMES?
As always, I suspect it’s a little of both.
Perhaps, a whole lot of both.
Long term demand for almost everything, including steel, is immense and growing,
Economies, including the two largest, the US and China are busy building out new infrastructure as well as repairing the old.
SENATE PASSES $1 TRILLION INFRASTRUCTURE BILL
Other populations, including the 1.4bln in India, are keen to join the consumer revolution.
So, the global production of metals has rarely had a brighter future. We really are, to quote Madonna,
LIVING IN MATERIAL WORLD
And that material is steel.
No wonder steel prices have risen so rapidly in the last few years, which sounds like good news for people like me involved in heavy industrial pursuits.
SO, IT’S THE BEST OF TIMES?
Well yes, in part that’s true.
But as you know, we also have to cope with inflation, meaning we must pay a ton more for raw materials and a King’s Ransom for the energy necessary to turn them into something useful.
All whilst competing for skilled, willing, labour.
And because inflation affects both the cost side and the price side of every business, we need to decide whether to shorten the supply chain and risk disruption or stock up and take the price hikes on the chin?
SO WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE…?
It’s as much a question for you and your governments as it is for me.
But let me spend a few moments outlining what I believe are three significant long-term drivers.
The Future of Labour, and what at Liberty we call CN30.
I’ll start with security.
Security is now central to every aspect of our lives: defence security, food security, raw materials security, and supply chain security.
All these ultimately dependent on energy security, itself, as we know, somewhat shaky.
At times like these, sovereign manufacturing capability moves from important to critical.
So now, home grown is once again the new mantra…
At LIBERTY we have always taken a local or regional approach to our businesses, recruiting home-grown talent, assessing the prime locations to house our business, localising our supply chains.
Today, we are doubling down on this, by cultivating our own future generation of individuals seeking a career in manufacturing.
And this is my second must have.
In post war years heavy industry has been far from popular.
After all, why get hot and sweaty labouring in a factory if by pressing a button you can work in Starbucks.
In 2017, my wife Nicola and I decided to change this thinking. So, we launched the GFG Foundation.
To inspire future generations to consider a career in industry.
Today we have a dedicated GREENSTEEL Academy that is seeking to educate, encourage and train Future Generations by dispelling the outdated image of steel making.
We are proud to have already shown some 7,000 students that there is a great future in our industry, a future underpinned by a global need for steel that’s doubling every few decades.
We are building the teams today, that will go on to build the world of tomorrow.
And it will be a better, more sustainable world… which leads to my
third and in many ways, the most significant point …
From tunnels under the sea to rovers on the fractured surface of Mars, steel has built the modern world.
But if that world is to have a future, we need to protect it.
For us that means being Carbon Neutral by 2030. CN30.
And, as I said, that starts with recycling
making less new material and repurposing more of what we’ve already made.
When we do need to make things from scratch, we start with the simplest element in the universe…Hydrogen.
Despite its’ relative abundance across the cosmos, here on earth we need to make hydrogen, and we need to use renewable energy to do so.
Sadly, the wind doesn’t always blow on time or the sun shine through the night.
So, here’s the trick: make more hydrogen than we initially need
when nature’s on our side,
use what we can immediately, and when it’s too dark to generate or too calm to turn the sails,
use the extra that you put aside to keep everything at boiling point.
Very soon now we will stop using coking coal to melt ore in blast furnaces and replace it with Hydrogen in Direct Reduced Iron or DRI
Coke emits CO2. Hydrogen emits water. So, it’s CO2 to H2O.
Using large scale renewables in key locations, that are also blessed with abundant amounts of magnetite iron ore, will allow us to produce competitive Hydrogen Iron and GREENSTEEL totally free of fossil fuels.
In fact, Hydrogen is destined to become one of the world’s fastest
Not surprising perhaps that at Liberty we’ve been working so very hard on this.
As a global organisation we intend to lead the way forward in the production of GREENSTEEL.
And we intend to do it by 2030, just 8 years’ time. Two full decades ahead of our competitors.
We’ve already embarked on a programme in South Australia to manufacture Green Iron from locally produced hydrogen and the vast magnetite reserves to be found there.
Here in Europe, specifically in Central and Eastern Europe, we will be pursuing the scrap root initially.
Targeting production of some 10 million tonnes annually of recycled GREENSTEEL.
I am proud to tell you,
and indeed invite you,
to travel a few kilometres from here to our Ostrava plant, Where, this afternoon, I will be signing an agreement together with my opposite number from Danielli,bto buy two hybrid electric arc furnaces.
At the same time, I will be announcing a brand-new tender for
similar hybrids to be installed at Galati, Romania.
With these substantial investments, our group will have moved two of Europe’s largest coal-based production sites to recycling scrap and melting DRI with electric arc furnaces well ahead of our 2030 target.
That’s a giant stride towards our CN30 journey. A giant step for Central Europe.
I hope you see that we are fully committed to doing this. And, we will be the first to do it, but we’re going to need your help.
Help and support from governments around the world, governments just like yours in Europe.
Help to ensure we are given the time to make the massive investments necessary to take these ambitions off paper and put them into practice.
Support, especially with the carbon leakage protection plans, and access
to large amounts of competitively priced capital.
As important individuals in each of your member states, I pledge you this.
If you do your bit, we’ll live up to our promises.
Europe must give its homegrown companies the optimal conditions to lead the transition to a cleaner tomorrow.
As a priority, that will require vast quantities of green electricity at competitive prices,
genuine support for first movers and market leaders, and, of course, continued carbon leakage protection.
The alternative is simply disastrous.
Your own domestic industries lose the initiative, lose employment, lose skills and lose intellectual property.
I’m throwing everything into the melting pot to ensure that we succeed two full decades ahead of our competitors.
Because, where Liberty succeeds, others are bound to follow. After all, it’s good business… soon to be great business.
But above all, it’s also vital business.
Simply put, this is the right thing to do.
For us at Liberty, but also for us all. We really have no choice.
We must learn to be smarter, To act smarter.
This is not just about saving our planet… it’s about saving ourselves.
And perhaps, above all Saving Future Generations. Thank you all.