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Understand the nine principal emission abatement approaches

How to leverage the principal emission abatement approaches

To visualize a clear path to Net Zero, it is helpful to understand the main abatement approaches at your disposal to reduce emissions. While every application will vary by business, industry, and geography, along with different maturity and costs, and business and climate impact, this section will provide generalized assessments along key dimensions based on company cases and other experience. We have ordered these abatement approaches to correspond with Figure 1 below.

Figure 1: Order of abatement approaches with descriptions. Source: BCG.



Circularity involves reducing the use of virgin material, primary feedstock, and waste generated, through circular design (i.e., modularity, ecodesign, durability), sustainable production, reuse, remanufacturing, and recycling used materials as applicable. At scale, this would be a significant departure from the linear take-make-waste model that is prevalent in most industries, where products are produced, used for a limited period, and then disposed of in landfills or incinerated.

Climate impact

This approach allows manufacturing companies to reduce their Scope 1 and 2 emissions associated with producing new goods; downstream customers are able to reduce their Scope 3 upstream emissions provided by suppliers. Additionally, in many cases, circularity can be particularly useful in hard-to-abate sectors.

Business impact

Benefits: In many cases, circularity improves material and cost efficiencies by increasing share of secondary material and decreasing waste. In addition, it can reduce costs for purchased goods

Indicative abatement cost (All abatement cost estimations, including industry-specific estimates, based on BCG project experience. Costs vary across industries, applications, and geographies). Abatement costs represent the cost of reducing emissions. Positive abatement costs indicate an expense to achieve reductions, while negative abatement costs suggest a net savings or economic benefit from implementing the reduction measures. A minus sign below denotes these cost-saving opportunities.

  • Glass (containers): increasing recycling rate: eur 20/t CO2e

  • Clothing/textiles: designing apparel with fewer inputs, less mixed inputs, and durability: -eur 100-150/t CO2e (net savings)

  • Plastic packaging: using secondary plastic material via mechanical recycling: eur 15/t CO2e

  • Cement: replacing limestone with decarbonized raw materials (by-products, waste, recycled cement): eur 5/t CO2e

  • Steel: increasing use of scrap in Electric Arc Furnace (EAF) production: -eur 40/t CO2e (net savings)


Glass (beverage bottles): Developing a deposit return scheme: In 2022, the Danish beer company Carlsberg launched a deposit return scheme in Latvia for its local Aldaris brand, including helping to create a government-approved Latvian bottle return program and later requiring retailers to sell bottles with a label advertising the deposit return scheme. This resulted in a 66% return rate for relevant bottles, up from 36% in 2021, including some months at a 100% return rate once the retail label requirement was put in place (2) p34.

Clothing/textiles: Reducing consumption of produced goods to decrease activity associated with production: Patagonia has introduced several initiatives to decrease consumer consumption of new manufactured goods, including its Good Threads partnership started in 2022 with eBay to enable trading in old clothes, and efforts to increase the quality of their textiles to encourage consumers to wear the same clothing for longer periods of time (3).

Plastics packaging: Recycling plastics in packaging, electronics, and chemicals: Close the Loop, an Australian company, turns old printer cartridges and other soft plastics into roads by mixing them with asphalt and recycled glass to produce a road that lasts up to 65% longer than traditional asphalt (4).

For further insights, please refer to the following Action Library case studies: Implement circularity in value chains to reduce emissions/waste; Improve product environmental footprint with eco-design.

Material and process efficiency


Process and technology improvements can improve the efficiency of energy and materials used in current industrial processes. These include a vast number of industry and facility-dependent optimizations. Examples include adjusting temperature, pressure, and time of certain manufacturing steps to achieve the same product quality while saving energy; using variable frequency drive pumps that throttle back when fluid demand is lower; using high-temperature water for heating instead of steam to save energy; recycling waste heat; adjusting processes to consume less material and recycle “waste” material, etc. Material efficiency also has the added benefit of generating savings by decreasing energy use required to process material.

Climate impact

This approach allows manufacturing companies to reduce their Scope 1 and 2 emissions associated with producing new goods or services, and, for downstream customers, cutting Scope 3 upstream emissions linked to purchased goods and services.

Business impact

Benefits: Improvements in productivity and cost savings from reducing material and energy use, and efficient product design. It is often associated with overall business process efficiency, and smarter use of all available resources, resulting in higher throughput and lower costs.

Indicative abatement cost

  • Textiles: reducing overproduction and increasing efficiency: -eur 90/t CO2e (net savings)

  • Mining: improving efficiency in electrical machines, e.g., bulk sorting, mills, grinders, conveyors: -eur 10/t CO2e (net savings)

  • Aviation: improving aircraft efficiency through redesigned parts and configurations: eur 100 - 10/t CO2e (potential cost savings)


Textiles: Ralph Lauren began on-demand custom production of their signature polos through investment and collaboration with solution providers in on-demand apparel manufacturing, software, and infrastructure platforms. Since launching this initiative, they have noticed a significant reduction in overproduction of the signature polo shirt and more flexibility in shipping times (5).

Mining: Using a conveyer system instead of trucking to improve process efficiency in production: BHP received the first carbon neutral conveyor belt from its supplier in 2022 to decrease their emissions in copper mining facilities in Chile (6).

Aviation: Light-weighting products: As of 2023, Airbus is currently working on creating lightweight wings to develop a more fuel-efficient aircraft to replace its current line of single-aisle jets (7). This achieves the triple objective of using less material in the fabrication process, reducing energy needed to process the material, and reducing energy use during aircraft lifetime.

For further insights, please refer to the following Action Library case studies: Reduce furnace CO2 emissions with a heat exchanger; Optimize chiller efficiency with artificial intelligence.

Renewable power


Using renewable power involves substituting conventional fossil-energy based power generation with renewable energy sources, including wind, solar, hydropower, or other non-fossil-based power sources that reduce power-related emissions.

Climate impact

This approach enables companies to address their Scope 1 and 2 emissions by switching to renewable power sources such as wind or solar for their assets and facilities; downstream customers are able to reduce their Scope 3 upstream emissions associated with suppliers. It's important to note, however, that not all renewable sources are inherently zero emissions: for instance, biomass, while renewable, can have varying carbon footprints depending on its source and processing.

Business impact

Benefits: Depending on the local power market, and off-grid/on-grid considerations, renewable electricity can lower your company’s energy-related operating expenses.

Indicative abatement cost:

  • Manufacturing: using renewable power for manufacturing: <eur 10-15/t CO2e (potential for cost savings)

  • Tech: using 100% renewable power for corporate operations, datacenters: <eur 10/t CO2e (potential for cost savings)


Manufacturing: Installing on-site wind power: Whirlpool Corporation, the world’s leading kitchen and appliance company, has built on-site wind energy generation capabilities in Ohio to help power four plants, and has plans to build a wind farm in Texas and expand its use of on-site renewable energy, among other initiatives (8).

Tech: Purchasing green power purchase agreements (PPAs), that allow for sharing of power consumption are a means to install large renewable facilities such as solar or wind farms. These may be located in the local region of corporate facilities, or can even be located hundreds of miles away to maximize the renewable energy potential. In 2023, Google signed a 40MW solar PPA (Power Purchase Agreement) to procure solar energy from EDPR in the Netherlands to serve its Dutch operations, that follows a 650MW solar PPA in US (9).

For further insights, please refer to the following Action Library case studies: Harness PPA for renewable electricity; Switch to solar energy with rooftop photovoltaics.

Renewable heat


Renewable heat involves substituting conventional fossil-energy based heat generation with renewable energy sources. This applies to both water- and space-heating applications in residential and commercial settings, as well as higher-heat production manufacturing processes. (Cooling using renewable energy is not included in this approach, mainly because most cooling already occurs using electricity, which can be addressed via efficiency and renewable electricity approaches. Within this framework, this is captured in (II) Material and process efficiency and (III) Renewable power.).

Climate impact

This approach enables companies to address their Scope 1 emissions through lower direct/on-site fuel-related emissions, and Scope 2 emissions by purchasing heat (e.g., steam) through a renewable heat provider. Downstream customers are able to reduce their Scope 3 upstream emissions associated with suppliers. It's important to note, however, that not all renewable sources are inherently emissions free; for instance, biomass, while renewable, can have varying carbon footprints depending on its source and processing. Therefore, emissions factors of various fuel sources should be considered.

Business impact

Benefits: Lower heating-related operating costs

Indicative abatement cost:

  • Buildings: using renewable low-temperature electric heat for offices: eur 40/t CO2e

  • Steel: replace other furnaces with electric-arc furnaces: eur 60/t CO2e

  • Chemicals: Replacing sub-150°C heat with heat pumps and direct electric heating: eur 40/t CO2e Please note that with current technologies, using renewable heating in high-temperature industrial processes (over 500°C) often has an abatement cost of more than eur 100/t CO2e, though this makes up a small proportion of heating emissions. For more information, see Switch to renewable energy to decarbonize industrial heat.


Building heating: Using heat pumps for low-temperature applications: Bosch is providing geothermal heat pumps to Bard College in New York with the assistance of state subsidies, toward the goal of achieving 100% geothermal heating onsite. As of 2022, Bosch has reached 40% geothermal energy, with the completed shift projected to save the college nearly $100,000 annually and reduce its carbon emissions (10).

Steel Production: Using electric-arc furnaces for high-temperature applications: In 2023, ArcelorMittal invested eur 67 million in a new electric arc furnace with the support of the Ministry of Economy of Luxembourg to reduce emissions from its steel production. This technology is expected to reduce emissions from steel production by 80% (11).

Chemicals: In 2022, BASF established a strategic partnership with MAN Energy Solutions for the construction of industrial heat pumps in Ludwigshafen to reduce fossil fuel needs. The heat pumps will produce heat using renewable power while supplementing with waste heat from BASF production facilities and cooling water systems to generate much of the steam needed for use in production. The integration of the planned heat pump could result in over 150 metric tons of steam per hour, the equivalent to a heat output of 120 MW, according to MAN Energy Solutions (12).

For further insights, please refer to the following Action Library, case studies: Switch to renewable energy to decarbonize industrial heat; Opt for solar thermal water heating.

New processes


Many processes, typically in heavy industrial settings or hard-to-abate sectors, are very emissions-intensive due to the fundamental chemical reactions involved, such as in the production of cement, steel, or chemical refining. New low-carbon production processes and technologies will be needed for deep decarbonization of these industries. Some examples include using direct reduced iron (DRI) in steel-making processes, using supplementary cementitious materials, mineralization and other innovative processes for low-carbon cement production, and using upgraded metallurgical grade silicon instead of polysilicon in solar panels. Polysilicon is cheaper and less energy-intensive to manufacture when compared to monosilicon, and using polysilicon can result in cost, energy and emissions savings. But refining polysilicon can also be energy-intensive in its own right. Upgraded metallurgical grade silicon offers a less energy-intensive manufacturing route. Over the past many years, manufacturing and refining processes have evolved to allow, first, the switch from monosilicon to polysilicon, and then to less energy-intensive processes for integrating polysilicon, and then to the use of upgraded metallurgical grade silicon, to maintain/achieve reasonable solar efficiency while improving sustainability.

Climate impact

This approach reduces all Scope 1 and 2 emissions related to affected processes but could also reduce Scope 3 emissions of purchased goods and services.

Business impact

Benefits: Has the potential to transform energy-intensive processes, resulting in cost savings. May also result in lower raw material cost if more recycled content is incorporated into the process.

Indicative abatement cost:
  • Steel: transform to steel using hydrogen-based direct reduced iron: eur 90-150/t CO2e

  • Oil & Gas: reduce direct emissions caused by flare ups: <eur 20/t CO2e (potential for cost savings)

  • Cement: using alternative cement clinkers (e.g., SAC = Sulpho-Aluminate Clinker; FAC = Ferro-Aluminate Clinker): eur 10-15/t CO2e


Steel: Using hydrogen instead of carbon in the iron ore reduction process: SSAB, the largest steel company in Sweden, in partnership with LKAB, the largest iron ore producer in Europe, and Vattenfall, one of the largest energy companies in Europe, aims to bring fossil-free steel to market by 2026 by replacing coal-based carbon with green hydrogen (produced by electrolysis) in the manufacturing process (known as H2-DRI) at their new HYBRIT factory (13). Volvo has partnered with SSAB to build the world’s first fossil-free steel vehicles with steel (14).

Oil and gas: Reducing methane emissions: Crusoe Energy Systems, a startup dedicated to reducing methane-flare emissions by harnessing their energy through infrastructure changes, has raised over $450 million since 2021 and has a pilot project with Exxon underway which is projected to immediately reduce emissions due to flaring at the pilot site by 63% compared with continued flaring (15).

Cement: The State of California enacted a law in 2021 stating that all cement used in California will need to reach net-zero emissions by 2045 at the latest. CARB, the California Air Resources Board, has been aggressively exploring different avenues for this, given California is the second-largest cement-producing state in the US. The single most impactful near-term solution being explored is using less clinker and replacing it with lower-carbon alternatives. Calcined clay, ground limestone, or natural pozzolans are all lower-carbon alternatives, as well as altering the recipe for concrete by replacing traditional cement with other materials like fly ash, steel slag, or ground glass (16).

For further insights, please refer to the following Action Libraries: Harness green hydrogen for ammonia generation.

Nature-based solutions


Nature-based solutions include investing in ecosystem protection and other land-use approaches that reduce carbon emissions; support biodiversity, water, and other ecological targets; and ideally encourage natural carbon sequestration. For nature-based solutions to count toward corporate emissions reduction targets, they must principally be within the value chain (usually upstream). As such, regenerative agriculture represents a broad family of approaches that may be implemented by companies in the food industry to reduce their upstream emissions. Other conservation practices, including the restoration and sustainable use of natural carbon sinks in non-agricultural settings (such as forests, grasslands, wetlands, and marine ecosystems), can help remove carbon from the atmosphere, but these would not typically count toward value chain emissions reductions (but instead as offsets).

Climate impact

This approach enables farmers and other landowners to greatly reduce their Scope 1 emissions; downstream companies (e.g., food and agriculture companies) can lower their Scope 3 upstream emissions associated with agriculture.

Business impact

Benefits: Improved supply chain resilience from reduced dependence on external inputs such as fertilizers, and improved efficiency of farmland, generating higher yields with lower input costs.

Indicative Abatement Cost:

  • Conservation/Regenerative agriculture: Employing conservation agriculture, which uses minimum mechanical soil disturbance, permanent soil organic cover, and species diversification, to increase water and nutrient efficiency, decreasing water use and fertilizer-based emissions: <eur 20/t CO2e

  • Cover Crops: Planting cover crops in winter months to reduce the risk of nitrate leaching, and soil erosion, improve soil structure, increase carbon sequestration, and reduce the need for nitrate in soil fertilizer in the spring: eur 0-100/t CO2e

  • Anaerobic Digestion of Cattle Slurry: Implementing anaerobic digestors to treat livestock excrement that would otherwise emit methane:eur 90-150/t CO2e


Regenerative “Resilient” farming: Resilient Coconut Farming in the Philippines is a 10-year (2018-2028) initiative on the island of Mindanao, Philippines spearheaded by Mars, Inc. in partnership with the Livelihoods Fund for Family Farming, the Integrated Rural Development Foundation, and coconut manufacturer and exporter Franklin Baker. The initiative aims to help smallholder farmers on Mindanao learn regenerative agriculture techniques, improve their yields, diversify crops, and secure better prices for their products (17).

Cover Cropping: Sustainable farming practices that encourage carbon sequestration in soil: Danone France has committed to using regenerative agriculture to source 100% of its ingredients by 2025. By introducing more than 20 cover crop species on their farms, they aim to improve soil health, slow erosion, and attract pollinators. Additionally, it has created the Regenerative Agriculture Knowledge Center, an open-source website sharing knowledge on the topic with farmers and other producers in their supply chain. They have already reduced dairy farmer emissions by 9.3%. Its goal is to train 6,000 farmers in regenerative agriculture practices, empower cooperatives, and transition 10,000 hectares to regenerative agriculture (18).

Dairy Anaerobic Digestors: Brightmark Energy partnered with four dairy farms in upstate New York to use anaerobic digesters that will convert a total of 225,000 gallons of dairy waste per day coming from around 11,000 cows into biogas and other useful products.The process will recover most of the nitrogen and phosphorous from the manure to create balanced biofertilizers. Moreover, the digestors will prevent methane from being released into the atmosphere, thereby reducing the net GHG emissions from the manure processed at the facility at a rate of 108,000 metric tons per year (19).

For further insights, please refer to the following Action Libraries: Use regenerative practices to reduce agricultural emissions; Use nature-based solutions as part of Net Zero action.

Fuel switch


Fuel switching involves substituting fossil fuels with lower or zero-carbon alternatives. This mainly applies to the transportation sector, where low/zero-carbon energy sources include hydrogen, biofuels, synthetic aviation fuels (SAFs) like e-kerosene, green ammonia, or switching to electric drivetrains. (Fuels may be switched to low-carbon alternatives in non-transport sectors as well, such as the industrial sector. Within this framework, most of these applications are captured in (IV) renewable heat.).

Climate impact

This approach allows companies to decrease their Scope 1 emissions from fuel usage, as well as Scope 3 emissions related to transportation, distribution, travel, and commuting. The actual decarbonization potential depends on the lifecycle emissions of the alternative energy source. For example, the carbon footprint of biofuels will consider biomass materials used; whether, how, and where any crops were grown; whether forests were cleared; and what chemical processes were used to create the final liquid fuel. In the case of switching to electricity, the principal determinant of decarbonization potential would be the emissions-intensity of local/regional grids.

Business impact

Benefits: Potentially better energy security, as more sheltered from geopolitical issues. Some fuels can be safer to handle.

Indicative abatement cost:

  • Freight: switching from diesel to synthetic fuel (including hydrogen): eur 60-100/t CO2e

  • Electric trucks: using battery-electric-trucks for short and medium distances (medium-duty): <eur 10/t CO2e (excluding charging infrastructure)

  • Aviation: switching to synthetic aviation fuel (SAF): eur 150-350/t CO2e. Current abatement costs eur 300-350/tCO2e, projected to reach eur 150-170/tCO2e by 2030. Substantial improvement expected due to technological maturity, economies of scale, and public policies

  • Rail: switching freight volumes from diesel trucks to trains: <eur 10/t CO2e (potential for cost savings)


Freight: Switching owned or supplier fleets from diesel to green fuels, such as biodiesel, synthetic fuel, or hydrogen fuel: Hyzon Motors unveiled a new program to convert diesel trucks to hydrogen fuel cell and already delivered dozens of heavy-duty fuel cell trucks to a steel manufacturer in 2022, which is expected to eliminate 30,000 tons of carbon emissions in the next seven years (20).

Electric trucks: Switching from fossil fuel to electric-powered equipment/vehicles, especially for short and medium hauling services: The United States Postal Service has pledged to move to an all-electric delivery fleet and has announced the deployment of over 66,000 electric vehicles by 2028 (21).

Aviation: The United States Department of Defense, in collaboration with the United States Air force, Operational Energy Capability Improvement Fund, and the Department of Energy, have awarded a contract of up to $65 million to Air Company for the creation of synthetic fuels for use in defense aircraft fuel logistics. The development and deployment of on-site fuel production will be more resilient and sustainable, not just for the military but society as a whole (22).

For further insights, please refer to the following Action Libraries: Switch from ICE to FCEV passenger vehicles; Switch from ICE to FC trucks in transportation; Switch from ICE to BEV trucks in transportation; Switch from ICE to BEV passenger vehicles.

Carbon capture, use and storage (CCUS)


Carbon capture involves capturing carbon dioxide (typically from industrial or power-generation processes) before it enters the atmosphere, processing and transporting it, and storing or using it in another manufacturing step. Emissions can be captured from point-sources or directly from the air (though this is currently less commercially viable). While CCUS is a valuable tool, it should not be seen as a primary reduction method; it is a complementary measure to absolute emission reductions. CCUS generally is not considered by SBTi to be a reduction lever until the company has achieved significant emissions reductions already.

Climate impact

Can reduce emissions across the value chain, usually associated with Scope 1 or Scope 2 emissions, if used in the power sector; can also reduce Scope 3 upstream emissions of downstream users. If not in the value chain of a particular entity, it may count toward offsets (as of October 2023, awaiting guidance from SBTi and/or GHG Protocol).

Business impact

Benefits: Can reduce remaining emissions, obviating the need to pay for any carbon emissions (may become particularly relevant in emissions-intensive industries).

Indicative abatement cost: Average: more thaneur 100/t CO2 (varies based on a number of factors)

  • Petrochemicals: using carbon-capture-and-storage/recycling (CCUS) for high concentration chemicals and natural gas processing: eur 30/t CO2

  • Cement: using point-capture of carbon in factory: eur 120/t CO2

  • Power: using CCUS to capture the carbon emissions from heating exhaust gases: eur 150/t CO2


Petrochemicals: Implementing point-capture at chemical plants: Red Trail Energy in North Dakota opened a commercial-scale ethanol producing plant with an integrated carbon capture system in 2022, which should capture and store a substantial portion of the plant’s emissions (23).

Cement: Fortera’s cement plant in Redding, California currently employs technology for CO2 capture of operational exhaust emissions and feeds it back into the kiln, reducing CO2 loss and significantly improving the efficiency with which raw limestone is turned into cement. The result is a product with 60% less emissions intensity and the ability to be blended with ordinary Portland cement as a supplementary cementitious material at a ratio of around 20% (24).

Power: Implementing bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS): Drax, an English power generating business, launched pilot project at two plants in 2019 and 2020 that use bioenergy in conjunction with CCUS technology to help generate electricity. They plan to open the world’s first carbon negative power station by 2027, part of the world’s first Net Zero industrial cluster, which they aim to complete in 2040 (25).

Activity reduction


Activity reduction involves directly reducing the absolute number of certain activities within your organization that contribute to emissions.

Environmental impact

This approach reduces all emissions associated with the reduced activity, including all Scope 1-3 emissions.

Business impact

Benefits: Usually results in reduced costs associated with activities, and may also increase business process efficiency.

Indicative abatement cost: Often negative, indicating abatement savings, though organizations should be careful not to affect revenue streams.


Business: Reducing business travel: As part of their efforts to reach Net Zero, Swiss Re, Fidelity, Pfizer, and BCG have all committed to reducing business travel across their companies as of 2023. Business travel accounts for 15-20% of air travel, the most emissions-intensive form of transport (26).