Growing concern as push for decarbonisation impacts on industry and jobs

The British Ceramic Confederation’s (BCC) fears that the UK will decarbonise through deindustrialisation have been further compounded by two sets of emissions figures, which suggest a reduction in carbon emissions at home is being achieved by manufacturing going overseas.

The BCC, which represents the interests of the ceramics industry, says new data published by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and Defra confirms its fears that uncompetitive energy and carbon costs are squeezing industry, impacting on jobs.

BEIS has published more detailed information around its territorial greenhouse gas (GHG) statistics for 1990 to 2020, first published in February this year, which show emissions within the UK were 49.7% lower than in 1990. The new data shows emissions from manufacturing dropped 61.3 per cent over this timeframe, while emissions from glass, ceramics and abrasives fell by 59.9 per cent.

BCC Technical Director Dr Andrew McDermott said: “The additional data shows that industry is decarbonising at a faster rate than the UK economy as a whole. Whilst some of this fall in emissions reflects the hard work of UK industry to decarbonise its activities, some of the apparent gains will be attributable to the offshoring of manufacturing and emissions, effectively decarbonisation by deindustrialisation.”

Territorial emissions data examines emissions occurring within the UK’s borders, compared with consumption emission statistics which refer to emissions associated with the consumption spending of UK residents, and include emissions associated with imported goods and services. Figures reveal UK consumption emissions have only dropped by ~23% (in 2019) since 1990. This is notably lower than the ~ 50% fall in territorial emissions. The data also reveals that whilst GHG emissions from UK produced goods have consistently fallen, emissions from imports have barely changed, with the main growth in imported emissions coming from the EU and China.

Andrew added: “Territorial data suggests we are halfway to achieving our carbon emissions targets, but when you consider consumption emissions, which factor in UK consumers swapping UK-made goods for imports, the figure appears to be closer to 25 per cent.”

BCC Chief Executive Rob Flello said: “The sector is committed to decarbonising in line with the UK’s ambition for net zero by 2050, and the figures confirm that UK ceramics is playing its part. But the cost of carbon emissions in the UK is notably higher than elsewhere in the world, which is placing our manufacturers at a competitive disadvantage. In some cases, investment, economic activity, and jobs have already relocated abroad, leading to a notable increase in imports.

“How many more jobs will successive governments sacrifice by implementing the most draconian measures, while offshore competitors put another piece of coal on the fire? We need support, so UK industry can make this low-carbon transition, rather than achieving net zero simply by sending manufacturing overseas.”

The BCC has already raised concerns that the Government’s consultation on changes to the UK Emissions Trading Scheme (UK ETS) could have a devastating impact on the ceramics sector.

Andrew added: “Our industry is already doing more than other parts of the economy to cut emissions, so why is the axe falling on us again, as companies within the UK ETS are already doing more than most? It is vital we complete the net zero journey, while remaining a vibrant and internationally competitive industry.”

Ceramics is a diverse sector and comprises manufacturers of heavy clay construction products, such as bricks, blocks, roof tiles and drainage pipes, whitewares, including tableware, giftware, sanitaryware, and wall tiles, refractories, advanced ceramics, for numerous electronic, medical, aerospace, environmental, military, and structural applications, as well as raw material and equipment suppliers to the sector.

BCC team help put the spotlight on advanced ceramics

Members of the BCC team were delighted to have been invited to speak at the two-day Advanced Materials and Ceramics UK exhibition, with topics up for discussion ranging from decarbonising manufacturing to skills.

Thousands of people attended the expo at the NEC, in Birmingham, which also provided networking opportunities. BCC Technical Director Dr Andrew McDermott and Policy Manager Rachel Timmins were both invited to join discussions on stage as the focus firmly fell on advanced ceramics.

Andrew was asked to chair a roundtable discussion entitled, Making Materials Manufacturing Sustainable, along with Ben Walsh (Innovate UK), Thomas Werninghaus (KYOCERA UK), Raymond Gibbs (University of Manchester and AEH Innovative Hydrogel Ltd) and Rob Munro (Institute for Manufacturing (IfM), University of Cambridge).

Andrew said: “Achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 will be challenging for the ceramics industry and its supply chain. However, the sector is committed to decarbonising in line with this ambition, providing this does not come at a cost to the sector’s international competitiveness, jobs or be achieved through the offshoring of emissions elsewhere.

“The panel session was extremely wide ranging, with the audience posing a number of very challenging and inciteful questions. Topics discussed included: the need to develop innovative decarbonisation technologies, such as electrification, hydrogen, carbon capture and bioenergy; solutions the ceramic sector already provides for the zero-carbon economy, including highly durable products with low lifecycle carbon footprints, critical components for renewable power generation, storage and distribution, and long-life thermal insulation for high temperature processes; and the need to deliver net zero by decarbonising UK manufacturing activities and not simply displacing them with imports and moving the problem abroad.

“The panel certainly provided plenty of insights on sustainability and it was wonderful to see so many people wanting to gather, network, discuss the industry and how we can develop and take things forward.”

Rachel was invited to contribute to a panel discussion, chaired by Andy Wynn from TTIP Global, entitled Building Better Investment, Innovation and Skills Partnerships. The other panellists were Dr Nessima Kaabeche (Confidence Coach for Women in STEM), Sarah Chapman (Technical Manager, 3M and Chair, 3M Technical Women’s Leadership Forum for EMEA), and Sarah Connolly (Innovation Lead at Innovate UK).

Rachel said: “It was my first time at the Advanced Materials and Ceramics UK event, so it was a total pleasure to be invited and asked to join this panel.

“Skill shortages are a real struggle for our industry, and we have been hearing this, together with recruitment worries, from many members as our new Chief Executive Rob Flello continues to tour our member sites.

“The panel conversation was wide ranging and covered what skills are missing in the industry, including often overlooked soft skills, what work is being done with academia, and attracting talent. The panel took a number of thoughtful questions from the audience including on immigration policy and keeping skilled people in this country, gender, and role models. I really enjoyed hearing the other panellists’ thoughts and experiences on the issues facing the industry.

“Many thanks to the panel chairman, Andy Wynn, for taking the time to hold a number of pre-meetings with myself and the other panellists to help us prepare.

“There were also plenty of networking opportunities, and as well as speaking to a number of members, I also introduced myself and the British Ceramic Confederation to a number of other manufacturers, which I will follow up.”

BCC Chief Executive Rob Flello also attended the exhibition, meeting up with members, International Syalons (Newcastle) Ltd, Kennametal, Mantec Technical Ceramics, Morgan Advanced Materials, PCL Ceramics and Therser UK.

He said: “It was wonderful to have the opportunity to network once again in person, to have meaningful conversations about the future of advanced ceramics, what the industry needs and how we can support our members.”

The push for net zero cannot be at the expense of British industry

Our Technical Director Andrew McDermott has led our detailed and comprehensive response to the Government consultation on the UK Emissions Trading Scheme. We have been lobbying Ministers, MPs, and Government officials about the inherent risks the ceramics sector may face due to what is being proposed and this work will continue in the weeks ahead. Read more about our concerns.


Decarbonisation through deindustrialisation – think about these three words for a moment because they pack a mighty punch.

Today, the Government’s consultation on developing the UK Emissions Trading Scheme (UK ETS) is bringing these three words into sharper focus. This meaty consultation, which includes 196 questions, delves deep into the UK ETS as it looks to evolve following Brexit and the split from the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS).

Ceramics is one of the most energy-intensive manufacturing industries in the UK, on account of the need to fire at high temperatures to form strong bonds between the constituent atoms that give rise to their unique properties.

It is also an extremely diverse sector and comprises manufacturers of heavy clay construction products (such as bricks, blocks, roof tiles and drainage pipes); whitewares (tableware, giftware, sanitaryware, wall tiles); refractories (vital in all high-temperature processes); advanced ceramics (for numerous electronic, medical, aerospace, environmental, military and structural applications); as well as raw material and equipment suppliers to the sector.

The Government-run UK ETS aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions through a cap-and-trade system, creating a market where the carbon price incentivises decarbonisation. Over time, the cap reduces so that total emissions have to fall as well.

However, in peeling back the layers in this latest consultation, it is clear that some of the proposals have the potential to devastate UK ceramics. The current UK ETS scheme affects 51 sites and 5,000 employees, often in areas in need of levelling up. It is feared many ceramic companies will be forced to close their UK operations during the second half of this decade, with potential knock-on effects.

The proposed deep cuts to the UK ETS cap (of between 36 and 58% of current levels) from 2024 create serious concerns for the sector, particularly as the technologies that will enable deep decarbonisation (hydrogen, electrification, carbon capture and bioenergy) are either commercially unviable or simply unavailable. Any suggestion of ‘low hanging fruit’, such as viable measures we can do now, ignores the fact that such options were used up a long time ago.

The proposed cap reduction is also highly likely to significantly increase already uncompetitive and unavoidable carbon prices, increase already uncompetitive electricity prices, reduce competitiveness against rival international ceramic companies, and in turn perversely reduce our ability to develop and deploy net zero technologies.

The consultation also includes proposals to extend the scope of the scheme, possibly pulling in smaller sites from across the sector, which would saddle them with extra financial and administrative burdens.

We fear the proposed UK ETS policies will be ineffective in delivering decarbonisation and, instead, will result in further loss of competitiveness, carbon leakage (loss of emissions, jobs, and investment to places with weaker or even no carbon reduction policies) and emissions offshoring, leading to an increase in global emissions, as well other detrimental environmental and modern slavery impacts.

All ceramic businesses compete in fiercely competitive global markets and therefore the sector’s success is fundamentally reliant on internationally competitive energy and climate costs.

We are already seeing that the cost of carbon emissions in the UK is notably higher than in the EU and much higher than elsewhere in the world, where manufacturers typically face low or no carbon costs.

Naturally, this is already placing UK manufacturers at a growing competitive disadvantage, which undermines our ability to invest in low-carbon technologies and increases our susceptibility to carbon leakage. In short, decarbonisation in the UK through deindustrialisation.

In some cases, investment, economic activity, and jobs have already relocated abroad, leading to a notable, subsequent increase in imports.

Of course, we would not be discussing this if the ceramics sector had a viable decarbonisation pathway to net zero – but that simply does not exist. Therefore, carbon reduction targets need to be more closely aligned with the ability of industry to decarbonise and so avoid putting the UK ceramics sector at a severe competitive disadvantage.

The sector is committed to decarbonising in line with the UK ambition for net zero by 2050 and to working in partnership with Government to achieve this. Aligned and holistic policy support is needed to prepare sites for deep decarbonisation from the 2030s while maintaining their competitiveness in the meantime.

This will require urgent Government action to secure: a supportive regulatory framework that delivers decarbonisation through incentivisation and international competitiveness; internationally competitive, and secure, energy and carbon costs; substantial funding to support industrial decarbonisation and a greater policy focus on consumption emissions and whole life emission assessments of end products.

Government will say it is funding research into alternative, mainly hydrogen, fuels. Whilst that is very welcome, much of this is focussed on the large industrial clusters which are not where ceramic sites are located. They also say they are providing help to electro-intensive industries. However, industrial electricity costs are prohibitively expensive. We are many years from large-scale, electrified continuous kilns, and the additional help for electro-intensive industries supports very few UK ceramics businesses.

BCC has submitted a detailed and comprehensive response to the consultation document urging a major rethink of the cap trajectory. We have also been lobbying Ministers, MPs, and Government officials about the inherent risks the proposals present and this work will continue.

Britain was the home of the industrial revolution, and we can lead the way in the net zero revolution. But to do that, the ceramics sector needs support, so that it can free up investment to develop and deploy innovative technologies in order to make the low-carbon transition, while at the same time remaining a vibrant and internationally competitive industry.

Dr Andrew McDermott                                                                 Rob Flello

Technical Director                                                                           Chief Executive

Charity support highlighted

The British Ceramic Confederation welcomed a wide-ranging charity that supports the construction industry to it latest Mental Health Roundtable.

Sarah Bolton from The Lighthouse Club, attended the meeting to shine further light on the work they do and how they can support ceramic companies, including external stakeholders connected to the construction industry.

The online meeting heard the latest statistics for suicide within the construction industry and the continued work of the charity, including providing a mental health portal, a five-step framework to create a more positive mental health culture and support available for mental health first aiders.

BCC Policy Manager Rachel Timmins said: “It was an informative meeting, which provided more insight about the Lighthouse Club and how its work relates to our members. We are grateful that they joined us.”

BCC President Edward Naylor, who is also a trustee of the Lighthouse Club, added: “Lighthouse is doing some really important work, with its 24/7 helpline a particularly important resource for those working in construction and its supply chain.”

The next meeting of the Mental Health Roundtable is on 20 September and will be a hybrid meeting, providing an opportunity to meet in person if members wish. For more information, contact Rachel.

Clay Quarry Managers Seminar success

The annual Clay Quarry Managers CPD Seminar has taken place with a capacity number of delegates as once again the event was held in person.

The seminar is aimed at clay quarry managers across the sector and provides an opportunity to network and discuss relevant topics.

COVID-19 forced plans to change over the past two years, but this year around 75 people gathered for the event, at the Double Tree by Hilton, in Stoke-on-Trent.

Lauren Darby, BCC Safety, Health & Environment Director, said: “As well as supporting people with clay quarry responsibilities with their continual professional development, it proved to be a wonderful occasion for networking and getting together in person once again.

“We thank our speakers who provided some very thought-provoking presentations, some of which we have shared also with members.”

The seminar provided a mix of presentations and workshops, with topics, relevant to the management of clay quarries, including health and safety competence, water management, biodiversity Net Gain and quarry machinery safety.

The guest speakers were from MP Skills, Eversheds Sutherland, Chepstow Plant, GWP Consultants and Ecosurv.


Awards open for 2022 Pledge

Entries are now being invited for the 2022 Pledge Conference and Awards as the extensive work undertaken by the ceramics sector to drive health and safety improvement is recognised.

A new award has also been launched this year to recognise the work of up-and-coming health & safety practitioners.

The Pledge Award for Emerging Talent in Health & Safety will recognise those new to health and safety, with less than two years expertise, who have shown commitment and enthusiasm and made a difference to their company.

Lauren Darby, BCC Safety, Health & Environment Director, said: “We are delighted to launch this new competitive award, which will be presented to one person. We will also once again be presenting the overall Pledge Award of Excellence and would urge members to put forward their projects and teams.

“The theme for this year’s event is ‘Leadership’ and it is wonderful that the sector can once again gather to celebrate health and safety best practice.

“Pledge gives members a chance to share success, learn from each other and network. If you have not entered before, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.”

The Open Category is being launched again, recognising company initiatives, large or small, that drive health and safety improvement, along with Individual Recognition and Contractor awards.

There is a team of three independent judges, with a closing date for entries of July 15.

The Pledge Conference and Awards is being held on Thursday, October 13, at the Doubletree by Hilton, in Stoke-on-Trent. Registration details will follow shortly.

Last year, around 160 BCC members attended the event with 110 entries split across the three categories. Nineteen companies were recognised for their work, with the overall Pledge Award of Excellence 2021 presented to Naylor Drainage Division of Naylor Industries.

More information on award categories is available here, along with entry details.