WASHINGTON — More than 50 companies have joined a global “buyers club” that pledges to buy aluminum, steel and other products made using processes that emit little or no carbon, a decision to be announced on Wednesday by the leaders of the World Economic Forum. in Davos, Switzerland.
John Kerry, President Biden’s special climate envoy, and a group of billionaire business titans gathered at a resort in the Swiss Alps for the forum – including Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Marc Benioff, the CEO of Salesforce – will unveil a set of “green” purchase pledges worth $8.5 trillion.
The idea behind the buyers’ club, known as the First Movers Coalition, is to drive demand for green versions of materials that have proven difficult to manufacture without significant carbon dioxide emissions.
The group includes Ford Motor and the Volvo Group, which have both committed to having 10% of their primary aluminum purchases produced with low or no carbon emissions by 2030. Aluminum production is responsible for 2% of global emissions – and the advanced technologies needed to create it without releasing carbon dioxide are not yet commercially available.
Google’s parent company, Alphabet, and Microsoft and Salesforce have collectively pledged to spend $500 million on technology to capture and store carbon emissions. Three other companies – AES, an electric utility company headquartered in Virginia; Mitsui OSK Lines, a Japanese shipping company; and Swiss Re, a Swiss-based reinsurance company, which has pledged to remove 50,000 tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere by 2030. The governments of India, Japan, Sweden, Denmark, Italy, Norway, Singapore and the UK also joined the coalition.
“We are creating demand for low-carbon products,” particularly for emerging clean technologies in steel, aviation, aluminum, cement and chemicals, said Forum President Borge Brende. global economy. These sectors are responsible for around 30% of global emissions, but this figure is expected to rise to around 50% of emissions by the middle of the century.
Mr Brende noted that with climate change already having an impact in countries like India and Pakistan, which have faced record heat for weeks, the human and economic toll of global warming is mounting.
“The price of inaction far outweighs the price of action on climate change,” Mr Brende said. “If we don’t use the buying power of big business now to tackle hard-to-shrink sectors, it’s going to come at such a high price for the world moving forward.”
The future of fossil fuels and the fight against climate change in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the resulting energy crisis was a major topic this week in Davos. Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said she hoped to see an agreement between European Union countries to sanction Russian oil in the coming weeks.
Speaking on the main stage in Davos on Tuesday, Ms von der Leyen said there was no doubt that “we are witnessing the way Russia is militarizing its energy supplies”.
Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, a crucial vote for possible climate legislation in an equally divided Senate, told a crowd in Davos that fossil fuels – the burning of which is at the origin of climate change – must be part of the solution.
“The United States of America has an abundant supply of natural gas and oil,” Mr. Manchin said, adding, “We can use our fossil fuel and the cleanest technology humanly possible to ensure that we are reliable, that we have reliability and that we have security.”
Mr. Kerry took part in a panel with his Chinese counterpart, Xie Zhenhua, on Tuesday. The pair then met privately – the first face-to-face meeting between the chief negotiators of the world’s two biggest climate polluters since the global climate summit last year in Glasgow.
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Speaking on the sidelines of the conference, Mr Kerry described the meeting as “constructive”. He acknowledged that broader disagreements between Washington and Beijing were impacting the climate talks. But, he said, “we are trying to maintain the capacity for serious progress because the world cannot progress without China and the United States working on it.”
“It is imperative that we continue to work together,” he added.
In a joint interview, Mr. Kerry and Mr. Brende said they believed it was still possible to meet the current need for more oil and natural gas to replace Russian energy while significantly reducing carbon emissions. fossil fuels in the coming decades.
“I think it’s fair to say that the situation in Ukraine has changed some people’s narrative,” Mr. Kerry said. “And there’s a risk here that some of the efforts that have had a lot of momentum coming from Glasgow will be challenged, if you will, in some quarters.” But, he added, “the private sector is stepping up here in an unprecedented way.”
Mr Kerry intends to meet Mr Xie again next week in Berlin, where the leaders are meeting for a meeting of officials from the seven countries with the largest advanced economies, known as the Group of 7.
China has pledged to start reducing its carbon dioxide emissions by 2030, but has not specified the level of its emissions until the curve bends.
Mr Xie said on Tuesday that “concrete steps have been taken”, referring to China’s rollout of wind, solar and battery storage, and said nations must now deliver on the promises they had already made.
The United States under Mr Biden has pledged to cut emissions by at least 50% below 2005 levels by the end of this decade. Congress hasn’t passed legislation that would allow those cuts, however, and a Supreme Court ruling this summer could limit the administration’s ability to use regulatory measures to address climate change.
“The United States, even through Congress, has yet to pass climate legislation, has done an awful lot by executive order,” Kerry said, insisting that “we are fully engaged here.” and that “we have a path” in the United States to meet Mr. Biden’s climate goals. However, he acknowledged, “we are not completely there yet.”
Somini Sengupta contributed reporting from Davos, Switzerland.