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New coalition hopes to create demand drivers for sustainable solutions

First Movers Coalition brings together industry stakeholders, government to create demand and increase R&D for zero-emissions technologies

(Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

A new multinational coalition aims to decarbonize “hard-to-abate” sectors such as shipping and provide much-needed demand signals for zero-emissions fuels and technologies.

Launched Thursday at the UN Climate Conference (COP26), the First Movers Coalition is led by the World Economic Forum and John Kerry, U.S. special presidential envoy for climate. 

Amazon, along with major shippers such as A.P. Møller – Maersk, Deutsche Post DHL Group and Yara International, joined the First Movers Coalition as a founding member.

“Roughly half of the emission reductions needed to reach the 2050 climate goals rely on technologies in early development, demonstration or prototype phases,” a release stated.

How it works

The group’s platform allows companies to make purchase commitments for zero-emissions fuels and technologies, sending solid demand drivers for R&D and adoption of those solutions throughout the supply chain. 

“This is very much about competitiveness and building the businesses of tomorrow. I think the largest risk is to not transform, and I think that’s heavily underestimated,” Anna Borg, president and CEO of Swedish power company Vattenfall, said during the launch

“The customer demand will change so much faster than the industrial processes, and I think that to be early might be challenging, but to be too late will be devastating,” said Borg.

Shipping, aviation, trucking, steel, cement, aluminum and chemicals are the sectors the coalition is focused on because they contribute to more than one-third of global carbon emissions and don’t currently have clean energy solutions to replace fossil fuels that are cost-competitive.

Stakeholders in the shipping sector that joined the First Movers Coalition committed to:

  • Members — Use zero-emission fuels in new and retrofitted zero-emission vessels by 2030.
  • Carriers — Power at least 5% of deep-sea shipping with zero-emission fuels by 2030.
  • Cargo owners — Internationally ship at least 10% of goods, in terms of volume, on ships using zero-emission fuels by 2030.
  • Cargo owners — Ship 100% of goods using zero-emissions fuels by 2040.

“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,” Kerry said in the release.

“In this critical decade, we not only need to deploy as rapidly as possible existing clean energy technologies, such as wind turbines, solar panels and battery storage, but also drive innovation for our long-term decarbonization goals,” he said.

Amazon signs on

Climate coalition Ship It Zero applauded Amazon’s (NASDAQ: AMZN) decision to join the First Movers Coalition. Ship It Zero is led by environmental organizations and Pacific Environment. It said in a release on Thursday that the definition of zero-emissions fuels and the 2030 targets are movements in the right direction.

Read: Amazon, Ikea commit to zero-carbon shipping fuels by 2040

“The First Movers Coalition could be a game changer for companies like Amazon, which must move quickly to help decarbonize the massively polluting cargo shipping sector,” said Kendra Ulrich, shipping campaigns director at, in the release. 

But the two coalitions didn’t agree on every front.

“The First Movers Coalition presents a massive moment for companies like Amazon to show leadership, but we need Amazon to step up its ambition and make a commitment to transport all of its goods on zero-emissions cargo ships by 2030, not by 2040 like its previous commitment,” Ulrich said.

She emphasized the urgency of fighting climate change and said more ambitious goals need to be set to ensure a “climate-sustainable future.”

Ship It Zero said the First Movers Coalition is “light on details” and called for concrete action and commitments from retailers to ship using only zero-emissions fuels by 2030.

Zero-emissions shipping fuels

There is debate about what counts as a zero-emissions fuel and how to calculate emissions.

Read: What is well-to-wake emissions analysis?

The First Movers Coalition said zero-emissions fuels must:

  • Have zero greenhouse gas emissions on a life cycle basis.
  • Be scalable enough to decarbonize the entire shipping industry when used alone or blended.
  • Address sustainability concerns such as land use.
  • Demonstrate they are safe to use through training and setting standards.

Ship It Zero said it was “encouraged that several companies reiterated their commitment to green hydrogen-based fuels” such as e-methanol and ammonia to aid in decarbonizing the shipping industry.

Read: E-methanol: Missing piece to shipping’s decarbonization puzzle?

Before COP26 kicked off on Sunday, the Global Maritime Forum hosted its annual summit in London last week. Attendees, including 200 maritime industry leaders, called for government action on climate change and commitments to decarbonize shipping by 2050, according to a release.

“My message to governments and regulators is simple. We know what is needed — we need your support,” Peter Stokes, chairman of the Global Maritime Forum, said in a release. “Let’s work together to move from good intentions to actions with impact. And let us start by making COP26 and the upcoming MEPC 77 a watershed moment that will set the course for a just and equitable transition to zero emission shipping by 2050.”

Shipping decarbonization discussions will likely continue at COP26 and at an upcoming International Maritime Organization meeting.

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Alyssa Sporrer.

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Alyssa Sporrer

Alyssa is a staff writer at FreightWaves, covering sustainability news in the freight and supply chain industry, from low-carbon fuels to social sustainability, emissions & more. She graduated from Iowa State University with a double major in Marketing and Environmental Studies. She is passionate about all things environmental and enjoys outdoor activities such as skiing, ultimate frisbee, hiking, and soccer.