First Movers Coalition launched to spur decarbonisation efforts

New First Movers Coalition has been launched at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow to accelerate zero-carbon technological advancements in “hard to abate” sectors that are needed to achieve climate change goals.

Announced by US President Biden, the coalition was created through a partnership between the US State Department’s US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate and the Office of Global Partnerships, and the World Economic Forum, in collaboration with the US Departments of Commerce and Energy.

Seven of the chosen sectors — steel, cement, aluminum, chemicals, shipping, aviation, and trucking—account for more than a third of global carbon emissions, but do not have cost-competitive clean energy alternatives to fossil fuels. The eighth, direct air capture, could reduce atmospheric carbon-dioxide levels to help achieve net-zero global emissions but also requires technological innovation to reach commercial viability, the partners revealed.

“Technology has given us the tools to reduce our emissions and build a stronger and more inclusive economy of the future. For innovators and investors to play their part in tackling the climate crisis, they need clear market demand. The First Movers Coalition will leverage the collective purchasing power of leading companies and drive the need for these technologies,” Borge Brende, President of the World Economic Forum.

The technologies needed to decarbonize these “hard-to-abate” sectors are not yet commercially available or competitive. However, these technologies are essential to bringing to market by 2030 to enable their rapid scale-up to achieve net-zero emissions economy-wide by 2050, the coalition partners pointed out.

The founding members of coalition

25 founding members, made up of some of the leading international companies from a wide range of industries, joined the platform to make zero-carbon commitments and create new market demand for low carbon technologies. The initiative set new shipping industry commitments and introduced new emission targets.

The signatories from the shipping sector pledged to use zero-emission fuels in new and in retrofitted zero-emission vessels by 2030. Carriers such as Danish shipping giant A.P. Moller Maersk set a target that at least 5 percent of their deep-sea shipping operations will be powered by zero-emission fuels by 2030.

“We still have a long way to go, but it is very encouraging to see that the ball is rolling. I’m delighted for us at Maersk to sign up to such a strong initiative and to see leading companies in hard to abate sectors make bold net zero commitments, this is what is needed to drive real climate action in this decade,” Henriette Hallberg Thygesen, A.P. Moller – Maersk CEO of Fleet & Strategic Brands.

Maersk was joined by Swiss commodity trading firm Trafigura which has pledged to own and operate six ammonia-carrier vessels which will be converted to use low-carbon ammonia as their primary fuel source by 2030, if technically feasible. This represents approximately 18 percent of Trafigura’s current owned fleet.

“The First Movers Coalition is an important initiative that will drive investment in technologies and solutions to achieve net zero. In the shipping sector, this marks another important signal by industry of its willingness and readiness to decarbonise. We now need an enabling global regulatory framework to accelerate progress and put a price on carbon for marine fuels,” Jeremy Weir, Executive Chairman and CEO of Trafigura noted.

Furthermore, cargo owners such as Amazon set a target that at least 10 percent of the volume of their goods shipped internationally will be on ships using zero-emission fuels by 2030, on the way to 100 percent by 2040

These commitments follow similar ambitions from leading global retailers last month, where brands including Unilever, Ikea and Amazon announced a target to progressively switch all of their ocean freight to vessels powered by zero-carbon fuels by 2040. Furthermore, over 150 industry players joined the call to action for shipping decarbonization in September this year.

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Together, these companies are committing to aligning their ocean shipping with the 1.5°C climate goal, and are sending a critical demand signal for the adoption of zero-carbon fuels.