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Morocco: developing an industrial decarbonization roadmap framework

06 February 2024 UNIDO

Tetouan cement factory

LafargeHolcim Maroc's Tetouan plant was the first cement factory in the world to have its own wind farm.  Photo: LafargeHolcim Maroc 

No country will be able to slash greenhouse gas emissions and meet its nationally determined contributions without decarbonizing its industries. But supporting industrial businesses to make the changes they need to lower their emissions requires key enablers, such as financing, technology, climate-positive policies and cross-sectoral collaboration. Agreeing how and when industry will have access to these enablers, and the corresponding emissions reductions they will lead to, is where an industrial decarbonization roadmap comes in.

To develop Morocco’s roadmap, UNIDO and Morocco’s Ministry of Industry and Trade led an intensive nine-month process involving 40 industry players (20 large companies and 20 small and medium-sized enterprises or SMEs), the Ministry of Energy Transition and Sustainable Development, the Energy Efficiency Agency, Moroccan civil society, international climate change and green technology experts. The initial roadmap framework will focus on two hard-to-abate sectors – steel and cement – and will later expand to other industries.

“This roadmap framework is the first step towards deep decarbonization of the cement and steel industry in Morocco. It provides clear technology and policy pathways for policymakers and other stakeholders in Morocco,” explains Dr. Ali Hasanbeigi, CEO and Research Director of Global Efficiency Intelligence, an industrial decarbonization consulting firm based in the US that supported UNIDO and the Ministry of Industry through the process.

“The roadmap outlines the policy tools, technologies and finance to reach industrial decarbonization goals,” adds Mustapha Mokass, CEO of the Climate Finance Advisory, another firm of decarbonization finance experts that joined the project.

Noor Ouarzazate solar power complex
The Noor Ouarzazate solar power complex, located 10 kilometers from Ouarzazate, on the edge of the Sahara Desert, is one of the largest solar facilities in the world. Photo: Michael Taylor©IRENA

Developing the roadmap framework was a complex undertaking. It began with a situational analysis which looked into the current status of Morocco’s industrial sector, especially the cement and steel industries, in terms of production, energy use and emissions. The country’s existing industrial decarbonization policies and targets were also assessed.

The next step in developing the roadmap was, as Mustapha explains, “to listen to the companies, because they know better than anyone what they need to decarbonize.”

Dr. Hasanbeigi adds, “Based on the feedback from the companies and other stakeholders in Morocco, a decarbonization roadmap framework was developed which outlines technological pathways for deep decarbonization of these two key sectors. In addition, we made actionable policy recommendations to make this change happen.”

An urgent need for action

Not only is industrial decarbonization the right thing to do for the planet, for Moroccan businesses it also makes commercial sense. The price of fossil fuels has skyrocketed, and the European Union (EU) is phasing in taxes on carbon-intensive imports. With 64% of Morocco’s exports going to the EU, agreeing a sustainable pathway to net zero has become a matter of urgency.

“Everybody now understands that we have to decarbonize to raise our competitiveness,” says Sanae Lahlou, UNIDO Country Representative Morocco. “The Green Deal and the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism from the European Union are coming. So today in Morocco this roadmap is not a luxury, and it’s not a greenwashing exercise, it’s a very necessary solution for the development of Moroccan industry.”

Sanae Lahlou
Sanae Lahlou, UNIDO Country Representative Morocco

Different decarbonization needs

Industry figures participated in a series of workshops and meetings to develop the roadmap. In them, Moroccan business leaders described how needs differ depending on company size. Some of the larger industrial businesses already have advanced decarbonization plans in place. For example, OCP, the Moroccan phosphates giant, has a US$12bn green investment plan that will enable it to reach net zero by 2040. But SMEs reported being further behind. A lot of this comes down to finance as well as the need for greater knowledge and skills in energy efficiency and decarbonization technologies.

Lahlou says, “SMEs don’t really benefit from international financing institutions, the commercial banks or the big development banks [to fund decarbonization]. Moroccan banks have lots of lines of credit dedicated to finance, so the money is there … but the problem is the survivability of the companies and the guarantees that they can pay back to the banks – sometimes the SMEs do not have enough guarantees. The Moroccan Government and the Ministry of Industry have some subsidies and mechanisms [for SMEs], but currently they are small scale.”

Many Moroccan businesses of all sizes have already adopted solar, and more companies are moving to wind energy. But newer technologies, such as hydrogen and carbon capture, are less understood. In the workshops, large companies highlighted this knowledge gap and the need for capital investment to support this technology transition. They also asked for more support to access and grow domestic and international markets to manufacture and market green technologies, and for clear regulation to ensure exports are meeting the standards set out by the EU carbon tax and other decarbonization initiatives.

Nadia Hmaity, founder of the civil society think-tank A Participatory Clean Energy Transition in Morocco, says, “For SMEs, costs are a huge challenge. We have [already] faced this challenge, trying to implement solar plants. It’s not easy; the ideas are here, the technical solutions are here, but the access to finance is difficult.”

Nadia Fikri, co-founder of PolluClean, a Moroccan company that manages and produces energy from industrial waste, echoes this point. She says her company needs “an investment in cash, know-how and substantial equipment” to decarbonize. “As a private sector player, we are called upon to invest in innovation and research and development, which requires substantial investment. The roadmap will allow us to have better projections based on the support that the public sector will provide.”

Making the roadmap work

Beyond finance, Lahlou says that “ownership and good governance” are the things that will make the roadmap a success.

She adds, “You build that ownership by creating a collaborative platform…There will be different views, so you need [mechanisms like] steering committees where you have all the partners participating at the same moment, and dealing and talking and exchanging and brainstorming about the same topic, then taking decisions.”

“But Morocco is ready. Everybody is walking in parallel, nobody is waiting for the other, and everybody is converging around this green mindset and going together into this energy transition.”

A version of the above article was originally published by the Industrial Decarbonization Accelerator, a UNIDO-led network of international initiatives working to accelerate the shift of industrial organizations – both large and small – away from fossil-fuels.