At Aster Fab, we are the architects of the climate industrial revolution, partnering with emission-intensive industries to transform them into the engines of a sustainable future.

Defining the Decarbonization Battlegrounds

Carbon-Intensive: Sectors that generate high levels of CO2 emissions, typically from the use of fossil fuels in their production processes. These sectors are a major contributor to climate change and a key focus of decarbonization efforts.

Emission-Intensive: Sectors that generate high levels of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, including not just carbon dioxide (CO2) but also other potent gases like methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O). This extends beyond carbon-intensive, as sectors like agriculture can also be emission-intensive due to methane emissions from livestock and nitrous oxide emissions from fertilized fields.

Energy-Intensive: Sectors that consume large amounts of energy, regardless of the source of that energy. This can include both carbon-intensive and low-carbon energy sources. Reducing energy consumption through efficiency improvements is an important strategy, but these sectors must also transition to low-carbon energy sources, such as renewable electricity, hydrogen, or biofuels, to achieve deep decarbonization.

Hard-to-Abate: Sectors where achieving deep emissions reductions is particularly challenging due to technical limitations or a lack of viable alternatives. This typically includes carbon-intensive and energy-intensive industries like steel, cement, chemicals, aviation, and shipping, where alternatives to fossil fuels are limited or costly.

Quantifiying the Emissions Challenge

Figure 1 – Global Emissions by Sector


According to data from Rhodium Group’s 2021 net GHG emissions report:

  • Industry accounts for 29% of global emissions, driven by industrial processes and the use of fossil fuels as feedstocks and energy sources. Manufacturing processes such as cement production, steel manufacturing, and chemical production emit substantial amounts of CO2 due to high-temperature processes and chemical reactions. Cement production alone accounts for around 5% of global CO2 emissions, making it one of the most carbon-intensive industrial processes. Decarbonizing manufacturing processes entails an important need for energy efficiency through industrial electrification (electrifying process heat and high-temperature processes), adopting low-carbon fuels, low-carbon feedstocks and energy sources (hydrogen, biofuels, bio-based feedstocks) as well as developing CCUS.
  • Electricity generation is also responsible for 29% of emissions, primarily due to the heavy reliance on coal and natural gas for power generation. This sector encompasses various activities, including power generation and use. Countries heavily reliant on coal, such as China, the United States, and India, face a significant challenge in balancing energy demands with environmental imperatives. Coal combustion alone contributes a significant portion of CO2 emissions, with coal-fired power plants being major contributors. The aim is to transition away from coal-fired generation and fossil fuels by increasing the adoption of renewable energy sources like solar, wind, and hydroelectric power. To do so we must enhance the flexibility and interconnectivity of the grid.
  • Agriculture represents 20% of global emissions, largely from methane emissions produced by livestock and nitrous oxide emissions from crop fertilization. Moreover, the use of synthetic fertilizers in agriculture leads to the release of nitrous oxide emissions, a potent greenhouse gaz. Sustainable agricultural practices, such as precision farming, agroforestry, and improved livestock management, offer opportunities to mitigate emissions and enhance resilience to climate change.
  • Transport accounts for 15% of emissions, primarily due to the use of fossil fuels in road, aviation, and maritime transport. In addition to CO2 emissions, transportation also produces other greenhouse gases such as nitrous oxide and methane, contributing largely to climate change. Electric vehicles offer a promising solution to reducing emissions from the transportation sector, with estimates suggesting they could reduce CO2 emissions by up to 50% compared to internal combustion engine vehicles. However, challenges such as the need for widespread charging infrastructure, range anxiety, and consumer behavior pose significant barriers to their widespread adoption. Furthermore, the aviation and maritime sectors present large challenges, making the top priority to develop low-carbon alternatives for long-distance travel and freight transportation. We need to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles and to develop viable low-carbon alternatives by investing in R&D for SAF, green hydrogen, ammonia and methanol.
  • Buildings account for 7% of total emissions, mainly from energy use for heating, cooling, and appliances, as well as emissions from construction materials. Moreover, as urbanization accelerates and populations grow, the demand for new buildings and infrastructure rises, placing further pressure on this industry to reduce its environmental impact. Sustainable building practices, such as energy-efficient design, use of renewable materials, and adoption of green building standards, offer pathways to mitigate emissions from the building sector. However, challenges such as retrofitting existing buildings and addressing the lifecycle emissions of construction materials remain key areas for improvement in the industry’s efforts to combat climate change

The Most Polluting Industries are the Hardest to Decarbonize

The most polluting industries are often the hardest to decarbonize due to inherent process emissions from chemical reactions, high-temperature heat requirements above 1000°C that are difficult to electrify, long-lived capital assets with recent investments locking in emissions for decades, or being trade-exposed commodities where transitioning alone could make them uncompetitive globally. Overcoming these barriers will require technological breakthroughs, supportive policies, and demand shifts to create viable pathways for deep emissions cuts in sectors like steel, cement, chemicals, and other energy-intensive industrial processes.

Unlocking Solutions Through Collaboration

The emission-intensive industries highlighted in this article represent some of the toughest challenges in the quest for sustainability. Unlocking solutions will require a concerted, collaborative effort from governments, industries, investors, and society. Innovative technologies, disruptive business models, and shared purpose will be essential in navigating this labyrinth. As we tackle the toughest emitters, we can expect to see the emergence of a new sustainable infrastructure, read more here.

At Aster Fab, we are the architects of the climate industrial revolution, partnering with industries to transform them into the engines of a sustainable future. Our mission is to work side-by-side with clients, reimagining operations, rethinking business models, and redefining roles in a decarbonized economy. Join us as we build the future, brick by brick, molecule by molecule, and megawatt by megawatt. Feel free to reach out to Marie Capdeville (Climate Tech Expert) or Léonard Stéger (Head of Sales)