• The First Movers Coalition has been launched at COP26.
  • The partnership between US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry and the World Economic Forum will accelerate demand for zero-carbon technology.
  • Here's a summary of key talking points from the coalition's launch.

Businesses are a ‘critical component’ leading the race to net zero, John Kerry said, as he launched the First Movers Coalition at COP26.

The US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate and COP veteran sounded a note of optimism, saying: “There’s a dynamic setting into this COP, it’s different, there’s more energy, more focus, more sense of urgency than I’ve seen at any of these meetings ever.

“And there is a critical component… for the first time, and in a massive way, the private sector is at the table and, frankly, leading in the way that even some governments are not.”

What’s the World Economic Forum doing about climate change?

Climate change poses an urgent threat demanding decisive action. Communities around the world are already experiencing increased climate impacts, from droughts to floods to rising seas. The World Economic Forum's Global Risks Report continues to rank these environmental threats at the top of the list.

To limit global temperature rise to well below 2°C and as close as possible to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, it is essential that businesses, policy-makers, and civil society advance comprehensive near- and long-term climate actions in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The World Economic Forum's Climate Initiative supports the scaling and acceleration of global climate action through public and private-sector collaboration. The Initiative works across several workstreams to develop and implement inclusive and ambitious solutions.

This includes the Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders, a global network of business leaders from various industries developing cost-effective solutions to transitioning to a low-carbon, climate-resilient economy. CEOs use their position and influence with policy-makers and corporate partners to accelerate the transition and realize the economic benefits of delivering a safer climate.

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Speaking at the launch event were:

Sumant Sinha, Chairman and Managing Director, ReNew Power Limited; Kara Hurst, Vice President, Worldwide Sustainability, Amazon; Anna Borg, President and Chief Executive Officer, Vattenfall AB; Brian T. Moynihan, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Bank of America; Rich Lesser, Global Chair, Boston Consulting Group; Børge Brende, President, World Economic Forum, Geneva; John F. Kerry, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, National Security Council (NSC).

Here are some of the key quotes:

‘We need everything’

There are uncertainties, Kerry told the gathered members of the Coalition. “50% of the emission reductions will come from innovations, technologies that are not yet at scale.”

But we need to do everything we can to keep global temperatures below 1.5C.

“The bottom line is exponentially, we get this going and cooking, and it’s going to go [much] faster than it would otherwise - and that’s what we need.

“If we don’t get enough reduction somewhere in the 45% region in the next 10 years, we are blowing by 1.5C, and that’s a hard target, it’s not easy to achieve and everyone knows that. We need everything we can conceivably do…

“We’re going to handhold countries and target the 20 biggest countries in the world, which are responsible for 80% of emissions, that’s where we need to go because that’s where the emissions are.”

Demand signals

Kara Hurst said Amazon has committed to be net zero by 2040 - and more than 200 companies have committed to The Climate Pledge.

“But what we need now is the action orientated hard-to-abate sectors to come together... It’s important to see the alignment between these initiatives… we need to send those demand signals.”

Banks are ‘here to help’

The Bank of America has committed to net zero, but the issue is helping clients decarbonize, said Brian T. Moynihan.

“If they’re going to be able to do this, there’s got to be technologies and scale - and who’s going to create that scale? It’s the purchase power of the big firms. We say it’s a just transition.

“What was exciting about this was how John went to the thought process of the purchase power of the largest heavy footprint companies and getting them to start the ball down the hill.

“We’ve got to get the market started… we can’t do it from finance out unless the companies are prepared to make the transition. We’re here to help.”

Setting an example

At COP26, India set out “an ambitious plan” for renewables to meet 50% of its energy needs by 2030, said Sumant Sinha, chairman of one of India’s largest renewable energy companies, ReNew Power.

He said there’s tremendous growth, but also challenges, including issues around raising capital.

As a renewables company, the First Movers Coalition wasn’t something Renew Power had thought about joining, but Sinha explained they had a realization.

“This is a sector that’s going to keep growing and we’re going to consume more and more materials ourselves, for example carbon fibre for wind turbines and steel structures for wind turbines.

“When we looked at that, we realized we also need to take a step above and beyond setting up clean energy, join the First Movers Coalition and make the pledge of actually increasing the amount of green steel we use.

“Our hope is we’re able to set an example for some of our customers to also join the coalition eventually.”

‘We were lacking a platform’

When the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) committed to net zero, “we said we expected to pay a high price for reduction, we wanted to signal it’s not going to be cheap, nearly 80% of our emissions come in scope 3 from aviation,” said Rich Lesser.

But the company didn’t know how to achieve the transition: “It’s not that many of us didn’t want to do the right thing, we were lacking a platform to do the right thing.

The First Movers Coalition has put an opportunity out there for innovators and entrepreneurs: “If you can come up with stuff… we will purchase it at a premium and help you have the confidence to make big, bold and challenging investments.

“This is a way to accelerate the technologies the world desperately needs to get on a net-zero pathway.”

An S-curve

Lesser appealed for more companies to join the coalition, saying not only is it the right thing to do but that first movers will have an advantage.

“Right now signing up for this is a commitment and a responsibility and it’s the right thing to do to accelerate progress in the world.

“But we’re on a S curve right now and what feels like a commitment with a cost today… the way emissions are going to be tracked more and more closely, we are going to find that many of the technologies we’re paying a premium for today, there will be scarcity in the years ahead.

“As you’re debating whether to be a part of this, put the other scenario on where being early in to sign contracts and make commitments could actually turn out to be a benefit versus your competitors later… when there’s not enough supply to meet demand in 2030.”

Biggest risk is not transforming

The largest risk is to not transform and it’s heavily underestimated, said Anna Borg.

“Customer demand will change so much faster than the industrial processes. To be early might be challenging, but to be too late will be devastating.”

You can watch the launch event here.


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