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A concrete factory. Photo: Carter Dayne/Getty Images

Although coal continues to be phased out of electricity generation, it remains integral to producing materials for infrastructure projects like buildings, bridges and roads.

The big picture: Coal is the most emissions-intensive fossil fuel, and steel and cement production account for more than 20% of the world's use. While options exist to reduce or eliminate coal from those processes, many of the necessary technologies require policies, incentives and new markets to bring down the costs of commercial deployment.

Details: In the last 15 years, global steel consumption has doubled and global cement consumption has nearly tripled. Industrial emissions — mainly from the production of steel, cement and chemicals — were the largest contributor to the growth in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions last year, according to a Rhodium Group analysis.

Where it stands: New efforts to reduce these uses of coal are moving forward.

  • In 2017, California passed groundbreaking "Buy Clean" legislation mandating government procurement favor low-carbon materials.
  • The European Union is funding a cement plant design that integrates carbon capture and storage.
  • The Swedish government is funding a new type of clean steel plant that will eliminate coal and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 98%.

What to watch: Infrastructure investment, particularly on the scale outlined in programs like the Green New Deal, presents an opportunity to pull clean steel and cement into the market.

  • Federal procurement standards could be put in place that reward recycling, efficient materials use and new green technologies like alternative concretes, coal-free steel and industrial carbon capture and storage.
  • Without such policies, big infrastructure projects could further drive up industrial emissions levels.

Justin Guay directs global climate strategy at the Sunrise Project and advises the ClimateWorks Foundation. Rebecca Dell is the climate and industry strategist at the Hewlett Foundation.

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - Sports

Swimmer Chase Kalisz first American to win Olympics gold medal

Chase Kalisz of Team United States celebrates after winning the Men's 400m Individual Medley Final on day two of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre in Tokyo, Japan. Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images

Swimmer Chase Kalisz became on Sunday the first Team USA Olympian to win gold at the Tokyo Games.

The big picture: The Rio 2016 silver medalist's winning time in the men's 400 meters Individual Medley Final was 4 minutes 9.42 seconds. His teammate Jay Litherland took silver .86 seconds later.

California's largest wildfire razes homes as 88 huge blazes burn in U.S.

Firefighters on the scene as dozens of homes burn during the Dixie Fire in the Indian Falls neighborhood of unincorporated Plumas County, California, on July 24. Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images

Flames from California's biggest wildfire were engulfing homes in the state's north overnight — one of 88 large blazes raging in the U.S.

Driving the news: The Dixie Fire, which erupted July 14 near the origin of the deadly 2018 Camp Fire in Butte County, was tearing through the community of Indian Falls in the neighboring Plumas County, per AP.

Golfer Bryson DeChambeau will miss Olympics after testing positive for COVID

Bryson DeChambeau of the United States on the 18th tee during Day Two of the 149th Open at Royal St George’s Golf Club on July 16 in Sandwich, England. Photo: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Bryson DeChambeau has tested positive for COVID-19 and will miss the Tokyo Olympic Games, USA Golf announced late Saturday.

What he's saying: "I am deeply disappointed not to be able to compete in the Olympics for Team USA," DeChambeau said in a statement.