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Government announces plans to phase out traditional building material due to damaging effects: 'A significant milestone'

These new rules are a big deal.

These new rules are a big deal.

Photo Credit: iStock

The Irish government just announced new rules around cement usage, mandating that more planet-friendly materials be used, WorldCement.com reported.

"This landmark decision marks a significant milestone in the journey towards developing a net-zero carbon society by 2050, as outlined in the national policy position," the site wrote.

The new requirements call for 30% clinker substitution in concrete for all government and public works projects as well as the phase-out of more polluting "high-clinker cement" variations. Clinker is the binding agent that sets and hardens cement, which the European Cement Association describes as "the backbone of cement production" and "essentially a mix of limestone and minerals that have been heated in a kiln."

As the heating process used to create clinker contributes the most planet-overheating air pollution in the cement manufacturing process, scientists have been hard at work trying to develop alternatives.

These alternatives include olivine, a class of magnesium-rich, rock-forming mineral common in the Earth's upper mantle. 

Scientists have also developed production methods that require less heat, significantly lowering the carbon dioxide output in the process.

Other approaches to creating more planet-friendly cement have included plants that capture the carbon dioxide they produce and redirect it back into the manufacturing process.

According to at least one study, cement production accounts for a whopping 8% of all global planet-overheating air pollution. (The study's title, slightly confusingly, refers to concrete instead of cement. Cement is the main ingredient in concrete and where all the air pollution in concrete comes from.) The International Energy Agency has labeled the cement industry "Not On Track" to meet climate goals.

As is the case with all for-profit industries, the construction industry cannot be relied on to reform itself, which is why these new rules from the Irish government are such a big deal. The technologies to make cement less polluting are being developed — in order to force the industry to implement them, governments need to step in and mandate it.

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