First Movers Coalition targets aluminium and carbon removal as it swells to 50 firms

Microsoft, Salesforce and Google owner Alphabet have pledged to collectively invest $500m in carbon removal technology by 2030, as a flurry of announcements aimed at scaling decarbonisation solutions for emissions-intensive industries were made at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos yesterday.

The fresh commitments came under the umbrella of the First Movers Coalition, a group launched by the US at COP26 last year bringing together companies across a number of emissions-intensive sectors which have pledged to purchase a set amount of near-zero and zero-carbon solutions, despite their premium cost, in order to jump start fledgling markets for nascent low carbon technologies.

More than 50 companies have now joined the Coalition worldwide representing a collective market value of around $8.5tr, it revealed in Davos yesterday, as the group officially launched its activities in two new sectors: aluminum and carbon dioxide removal.

It also announced that the United Kingdom, Denmark, India, Italy, Japan, Norway, Singapore, and Sweden would be joining the US as government partners to the initiative, with the nations pledging to work on policy measures and drive private sector engagement that can expand much-needed clean technology markets.

Microsoft is to serve as an “expert partner” for the First Movers Coalition’s new carbon dioxide removal stream, with the firm expected to share lessons from its recent carbon removal purchasing programme.

The technology giant is among a handful of tech firms to have made public pledges to ramp up their carbon removal activity or investment as they signed up to the First Movers Coalition.

On top of the $500m joint commitment from the tech giants, consultancy Boston Consulting Group has committed to remove 100,000 tons of carbon by 2030, and AES, Misui OSK Lines and Swiss Re have each committed to either spend $25m on carbon removal, or eliminate 50,000 tons of carbon from the air.

The First Movers Coalition said members’ climate removal purchases would be supported by a number of implementation partners, including Breakthrough Catalyst, Carbon Direct, Frontier and South Pole.

Meanwhile, Ball Corporation, Ford Motor Company, Novelis, Trafigura and Volvo Group have joined the coalition as founding members of the coalition’s new aluminum initiative, committing to achieving near-zero carbon emissions from 10 per cent of their primary aluminum purchases by the end of this decade.

The First Movers Coalition said its model was inspired by the success advance market commitments have had in driving innovation in other fields, most notably in bringing down the costs of life-saving vaccines. Its activities now span six different industrial sectors: carbon removal, aluminum, aviation, shipping, steel and trucking.

US climate envoy John Kerry and Bill Gates, founder of Breakthrough Energy fund, were on hand in Davos yesterday to announced the addition of new Coalition members.

“The purchasing commitments made by the First Movers Coalition represent the highest-leverage climate action that companies can take because creating the early markets to scale advanced technologies materially reduces the whole world’s emissions – not just any company’s own footprint,” Kerry said. “With today’s expansion, the coalition has achieved scale across the world’s leading companies and support from committed governments around the world to tackle the hardest challenge of the climate crisis: reducing the emissions from the sectors where we don’t yet have the toolkit to replace unabated fossil fuels and swiftly reach net zero emissions.”

Elsewhere at the WEF summit in Davos yesterday, four industrial clusters from Europe and the US, which collectively produce more emissions than the country of Poland, have also signed up to the World Economic Forum’s Transitioning Industrial Clusters towards Net Zero scheme.

Launched at COP26 in November 2021, the initiative aims to accelerate the decarbonisation of hard-to-abate industrial sectors, while maximizing job creation and economic competitiveness, by building cross-industry and cross-cluster partnerships to better implement low-carbon technologies and enhancing firms’ access to private and public funding.

The four industrial hubs, which involve oil and gas extraction and processing, shipping, heavy-duty transportation, chemicals and other sectors, employ more than 470,000 people and represent an annual gross domestic product of $135bn, WEF said.

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