You can neither see nor smell CO₂, which is what makes the greenhouse gas so insidious. But if you could, the Thyssenkrupp plant in Duisburg would be a hotspot: Germany’s largest steel manufacturer produces raw iron here from iron ore and coal, and from it steel, which ultimately ends up in car parts or washing machines. But the climate balance is overwhelming: The plant on the Rhine causes about two percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in Germany.
Accordingly, the future of emissions trading is important for Bernhard Osburg. “We are looking forward to the forthcoming decision of the EU Parliament with great excitement and concern,” says the head of ThyssenKrupp’s steelworks. For them it’s about a lot of money – and ultimately also about the future in a climate-neutral Europe.
Industry has had to buy CO₂ emission rights since 2005. Year after year, fewer allowances come onto the market, which tends to make each more expensive. The EU was a global leader in this. But because a sector like the steel industry faces international competition, it has so far been allocated around 80 percent of the certificates free of charge.
But that should soon be over. “The EU proposal would mean a drastic reduction in free allocations,” Osburg states, “which would deprive us of the funds we need to invest in the transformation from 2026 onwards.” However, in return, Brussels is planning a so-called CO₂ border adjustment: A kind of tariff is to be imposed on imported steel from outside the EU, depending on the climate balance. “But there has never been such a CO₂ border adjustment,” says Osburg skeptically. “And it’s difficult to measure the carbon footprint of individual imported products.”
The group recently spoke of the threat of spending billions on CO₂ certificates
It is clear that companies like Thyssenkrupp will have to buy more emission rights in the future. The group recently spoke of additional billions in expenditure in 2026. Osburg is still hoping for a compromise proposal from the federal government, according to which the number of freely allocated certificates should only decrease by five percent per year when the planned border adjustment comes about. “We think that’s a viable option,” says Osburg.
The Duisburg native tries to argue with climate protection himself: “We want and need to invest billions so that we can achieve low-CO₂ and CO₂-neutral steel production.” Thyssenkrupp wants to gradually replace the blast furnaces with new plants that process ore with natural gas and, in the long term, with hydrogen instead of coal. This protects the climate if the hydrogen is previously generated with a lot of green electricity.
“Such investments have to be financed,” warns Osburg, “the state will not take them completely from us.” But Thyssenkrupp can only earn the necessary money with the existing systems. “The existing technology now threatens to become so much more expensive that it would be difficult to pass these costs on to our customers.” The company is therefore in favor of further free allocations – for companies that demonstrably invest in climate-friendly technologies. “It’s not wise to melt down the front faster than you can transform at the back,” says Osburg.
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