Maersk, Amazon and Others Join Coalition to Accelerate Decarbonization

coalition to create demand for low carbon fuels and technologies
(IMO photo)

Published Nov 4, 2021 4:07 PM by The Maritime Executive

In an effort to accelerate the development of low and zero-carbon fuels and technologies, some of the world’s leading companies including Maersk, Amazon, Apple, Boeing, Volvo, and others, are joining an initiative launched by the World Economic Forum and US Special President Envoy for Climate John Kerry committing to steps to decarbonize industry. Called the First Movers Coalition, the efforts focus on eight sectors, including shipping, aviation, and trucking, that are considered among the most challenging to transition to zero carbon emissions.

Launched at the COP26 conference, the World Economic Forum said the initiative would create a new platform for companies to make purchasing commitments that create new market demand for low carbon technologies. They noted that roughly half of the emission reductions needed to reach the 2050 climate goals rely on technologies in early development, demonstration, or prototype phases. “Accelerating innovation in this decade is critical to bring these technologies to market and make them cost-competitive,” according to WEF.

"The First Movers Coalition is a platform for the world’s leading global companies to make purchasing commitments to create early markets for critical technologies needed to achieve net-zero by 2050,” said John Kerry during the launch of the effort. “In this critical decade, we not only need to deploy as rapidly as possible existing clean energy technologies, such as wind turbines, solar panel, and battery storage, but also drive innovation for our long-term decarbonization goals."

Seven of the sectors the coalition is focusing on, shipping, aviation, trucking, steel, cement, aluminum, and chemicals, collectively account for more than a third of global carbon emissions. In announcing the new initiative the organizers explained that none of these industries has yet developed cost-competitive energy alternatives to fossil fuels. Companies joining the coalition are making purchasing commitments designed to drive demand and support the efforts to support the reduction of carbon emissions.

In addition to Maersk, vessel charterers are also joining the coalition. In the phase one commitments, they are adopting a target that at least five percent of their deep-sea shipping will be powered by zero-emission fuels by 2030. In addition, they are pledging using vessels enables to using zero-emission fuels. The five percent commitment was arrived at for the first target by an in-depth analysis from the Global Maritime Forum, University College of London, and UNFCC High Level Climate Champions that determined it was the breakthrough need to be on course for the Paris Agreement. 

The commitments also extend to the cargo owners contracting for shipments. Companies including Amazon are pledging to a target of at least 10 percent of the volume of goods shipped internationally will be on ships using zero-emission fuels by 2030. The goal advances to 100 percent by 2040.

The Shipping Decarbonization Initiative led by the Aspen Institute, the Global Maritime Forum, and the UCL Energy Institute are joining with the World Economic Forum t focus the efforts in the shipping sector. They highlighted that under the First Moves Collation, they also specifically defined the elements for fuels to qualify as zero emissions. They are taking a lifecycle approach often called well to wake for zero greenhouse gas emissions. The fuels must also be scalable to support the decarbonization of shipping either when blended or used as a standalone. The criteria also focus on land use, sustainability, and safety considerations.

“Technology has given us the tools to reduce our emissions and build a stronger and more inclusive economy of the future,” said Børge Brende, President of the World Economic Forum. “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.”

Environmental groups were quick to acknowledge the potential of the new coalition to contribute to the decarbonization efforts. Stand.earth and Pacific Environment, which had launched the Ship It Zero initiative calling on major retailers and manufacturers to move to net-zero said the new initiative could be a game changer.  The two organizations singled out major retailers as the largest contributors to emissions and recently had staged demonstrations at the headquarters of Amazon and Ikea as well as near the Port of Los Angeles.

A total of 32 companies from across the eight sectors became initial participants in the new First Moves Coalition. The World Economic Forum is calling on more companies to join the effort to build the demand that they believe will be necessary to support the creations of the fuels and technologies to achieve net-zero emissions.