Florian Maczek presenting at IAMC 2023

The 16th Annual Meeting of the Integrated Assessment Modeling Consortium (IAMC) has been held in Venice from November 14-16. Since 2022, the IAMC solicits abstracts for dedicated circular economy sessions. This year’s “CircEUlar session” was co-chaired by CIRCOMOD Co-Principal Investigator Detlef van Vuuren (PBL) and CircEUlar Co-Principal Investigator Volker Krey (IIASA) with several contributions to the session stemming from these two Horizon Europe funded sister projects. The topics covered in the session included circular economy strategies for the petrochemicals sector and plastics, potential material scarcity in the transition to carbon neutrality, material demands of mobility infrastructure and multi-model frameworks to integrate circular economy and climate change mitigation.

From the CircEUlar side, Florian Maczek showed the recent advancements of the MESSAGEix-Materials model developed by the IACC group at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) with a presentation on “Integrated assessment of circular economy transition and climate mitigation in the petrochemical sector”. With the petrochemical sector being the third biggest CO2 emitter in industry, the main goal of the study was the quantification of emission mitigation potentials through circular economy measures.

Since plastics have received most of the attention with regards to mitigation in the chemical industry, the work focused on the remaining major emitting processes, namely fertilizer and methanol production. Nitrogen fertilizer production currently creates the most carbon dioxide emissions of the whole sector. This is a result of the high production volumes and a significant share of coal use both as energy and feedstock source. Demand side measures regarding fertilizer consumption could be quantified by linking MESSAGEix-Materials to the global land use model GLOBIOM also developed at IIASA. The attainment of the land use related Sustainable Development Goals 2, 6, 12 and 15 combined with stringent climate policy leads to a global fertilizer production reduction of 35% in 2050.

A second linkage with the MESSAGEix-Buildings model also enabled to assess the potential of a large-scale roll out of wood-based construction. The petrochemical industry produces the adhesives for wooden panels used to substitute concrete and steel. The results show that the induced reduction in cement demand and carbon sequestration in wooden housing outweighs both material demand and emission from additional adhesive use by far.

When bringing all the quantified circular economy strategies together in a combined climate- and circular policy scenario, the reliance on carbon capture of the whole energy system to achieve the 2°C target was reduced by 15%.

The MESSAGE-Materials team will continue assess more circular strategies by applying the demonstrated methodology to more industrial sectors.

By Florian Maczek – IIASA