Event Summary and Video: Jumpstarting Clean Technology for National Security

By Brigitte Hugh

“The demand signals we send today will induce suppliers or innovators to develop and scale those new [sustainable] technologies,” said Varun Sivaram, Senior Director for Clean Energy and Innovation in the Office of US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry, at a recent event hosted by the Center for Climate and Security (CCS) titled  “Jumpstarting Demand for Climate Solutions: The First Movers Coalition and US National Security.” (A full recording of the event is available here and below).

The First Movers Coalition (FMC), announced by the United States and industry partners at COP26, the UN Climate Conference, in November 2021, is “a new platform for companies to harness their purchasing power and supply chains to create early markets for innovative clean energy technologies that are key for tackling the climate crisis.” During the Jumpstarting Demand event, panelists discussed potential opportunities and synergies as the State Department, Department of Defense, and private industry all pursue the goal of accelerating innovation, market demand, and adoption of clean energy technologies.

“Roughly fifty percent of the emissions reductions we’ll need by 2050 have to come from new technologies,” said Sivaram. “What we do with the First Movers Coalition is create this early market.”

Within the federal government, the Department of Defense (DoD) is uniquely positioned to use its buying power to create market demand for clean tech in the private sector. “I know the power of the military to lead by example,” said Sherri Goodman, Senior Advisor at the Center for Climate & Security. “It has a challenge, but also a great opportunity in this race to the top, to use its buying power across some of the key sectors in the First Movers Coalition.”

When it comes to U.S. national security, creating this demand is in DoD’s best interest. “All of these things are not only important to our climate ambitions, they’re actually really critical to our mission,” said Joe Bryan, Senior Advisor for Climate in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. “Any improvement we make to efficiency, any improvement we make that reduces our demand for logistics support, is not only good for the climate, but it’s also good for the mission.”

Brian Moran, Vice President of Global Sustainability Policy & Partnerships at the Boeing Company, which is already a member of the FMC, noted that public market demand signals are important, and they can be amplified by sending them in concert with partners such as NATO. “DoD can be a great partner in its own right, but also in a NATO context,” Moran said. He noted that if multiple defense departments and ministries are sending clear demand signals, that will provide increased incentive for suppliers and innovators.

Mike Witt, Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer at Northrop Grumman also focused on the importance of pursuing cleaner tech in partnership with other organizations, especially those in the supply chain. “Commitment to collaboration is really what helps us to explore the opportunities and drive significant progress as it relates to the broader greenhouse gas emissions profile,” Witt said. The DoD clear the path for that kind of collaboration and ease the way forward for suppliers and partners to put resources into sustainability.

Finally, partnerships are important, but you can’t achieve any sort of progress without first understanding “the risks and opportunities that we are playing here,” said Anshu Roy, Founder and CEO of Rhombus Power. Which is why tools and processes for better understanding the data and assessing possible paths forward, like Rhombus Power’s AI system, will be necessary in implementing and achieving the sustainability goals of the First Movers Coalition.

Creating market demand for clean technologies and climate solutions is mission critical for national security because worsening climate change impacts will increase insecurity. The First Movers Coalition is one way to make changes today that will save tomorrow.

You can watch the full event at this link and below.


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