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First Movers Coalition buying pledges reach $12 billion and counting

The advance market procurement initiative, launched in November 2021 by U.S. climate adviser John Kerry, adds cement and concrete to buying commitments.

Sign from COP 27, the international climate change negotiations.

The COP27 opening ceremony. Photo courtesy of UNFCCC

Support is building, literally, for the First Movers Coalition, a group of 65 companies supporting the decarbonization of hard-to-abate industrial sectors through early purchases of early-stage, low-carbon technologies.

The initiative, launched last year at COP26 by the World Economic Forum and U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry, this week announced an expansion both in membership and in sector focus during the latest climate negotiations in Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt.

Collectively, the members represent "market value" of close to $8 trillion, including close to a dozen that have already starting delivering against their buying promises — AB InBev, Amazon, Apple, Ball Corp., Cemex, Holcim, Novelis, Rio Tinto, Scania and Volvo.  

The overarching mission of First Movers Coalition is to provide early demand signals through advance market commitments to climate tech firms, giving investors in those technologies more certainty that they will be able to scale commercially. 

The group previously announced strategies for encouraging the development of climate tech for steel, aluminum, aviation, shipping, trucking and carbon dioxide removal.

The latest target for the year-old initiative: cement and concrete, which accounts for an estimated 7 percent of annual greenhouse gas emissions. The specific promise by the construction, engineering and real estate developers supporting this focus is to begin buying at least 10 percent "near zero" concrete and cement per year by 2030. The "founding" members for this particular target are building materials company ETEX, automaker General Motors, real estate developer RMZ Corp and power company Vattenfall. ETEX, GM and RMZ are all new First Movers members.

"Cement is the second-most consumed product globally after potable water, and the demand signal that top companies have set today for near-zero concrete will drive critical investment in next-general technologies," said Kerry in a statement. "I am also delighted with the increased commitments we have announced across our existing long-distance transport, heavy industry and carbon removal sectors. This unprecedented $12 billion demand signal will bring competitive technologies to market this decade that are needed to decarbonize so-called ‘hard-to-abate’ sectors of the global economy."

"The goal is to unlock demand for these types of solutions, to essentially get out of what is a chicken and egg situation," said Antonia Gawel, head of climate change with the World Economic Forum. "There is not enough policy at the moment to scale these solutions at commercial scale, competitively."

Next and last on the radar will be chemicals, which Gawel said will be one of the most complex industries to tackle. There hasn’t been a timeframe announced for that launch, in part because the roadmaps for what technologies should be at the center of a low-carbon transition are still emerging, Gawel said.

The coalition is also working on resources related to financing strategies, something that is being addressed in an ongoing working group, she said.

As of this week, the First Movers Coalition is also 10 companies larger. Aside from those noted above, here are the other new members, along with where their procurement commitments are focused:

  • Autodesk (aviation)
  • Bang & Olufsen (aluminum)
  • Constellium (aluminum)
  • Emirates Global Aluminum (carbon removal technologies)
  • Hoegh Autoliners (shipping)
  • PepsiCo (aluminum, trucking)
  • Rio Tinto (aviation, shipping, trucking)

Over the past 12 months, some of the initial members have trumpeted progress. Early this year, Apple purchased a batch of carbon-free aluminum — smelted through a process that produces oxygen rather than greenhouse gases. As reported earlier this week on GreenBiz, Scania is producing trucks that use steel produced through a lower-emissions production process. And Delta Airlines has formally signed more than half the offtake deals it needs to reach its aviation commitment, including a contract to buy 55 million gallons of sustainable aviation fuel annually from DG Fuels.

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