Oct 15, 2021 · 5 min read

CZI Awards $10M to Breakthrough Energy Fellows to Accelerate Promising Decarbonization Technologies, and Nearly $23M to Organizations Advancing Carbon Dioxide Removal

A graphic showing, from left to right, a lightbulb, construction materials, a chart, two researchers, a crane, a direct air capture machine, and trees and flowers.

Today, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) announced $10 million in funding to the first ever Breakthrough Energy Fellows — entrepreneurs and researchers who will work to develop, scale, and commercialize the most promising decarbonization technologies that have the potential to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by at least 500 million tons per year by 2050. The 2021 Breakthrough Energy Fellows will focus on hydrogen, electrofuels, cement, steel, and fertilizer.

“We believe in the power of innovation and collaboration to drive impactful change, and are proud to support the new Breakthrough Energy Fellows to create and scale climate and clean energy technologies that will help us reach net-zero emissions by 2050,” said CZI co-founders and co-CEOs Dr. Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg. “Climate change is one of the most urgent challenges of our time, and we’re hopeful that supporting leading scientists and entrepreneurs to bring their inventions from the lab to broad scale will accelerate the pace of advancements and the move towards a clean energy future.”

As part of an exploration of innovative and underfunded ways to help address climate change, CZI is also committing nearly $23 million for a small portfolio of organizations that are focusing on building the field of carbon dioxide removal (CDR), as well as investing in CDR technologies. Carbon removal encompasses a range of approaches—from direct air capture to mineralization—that absorb existing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in a stable form or use it in products like concrete, which can also help reduce emissions in hard-to-decarbonize industries. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), carbon dioxide removal will play a pivotal role in reaching the ambitious goal of limiting global temperature increase to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. 

Learn about the funding below, and read more about three leaders in carbon removal on a race to solve the climate crisis.

  • Activate: Activate provides two-year fellowships to promising scientists and engineers, with a focus on bringing groundbreaking research to market as new products and businesses faster and with more impact. CZI is supporting four fellows to create carbon dioxide removal innovations. Applications for fellowships are now open. 
  • Actuate: What does it take to realize faster emissions reduction at a massive scale? Actuate aims to spur breakthrough innovations to eliminate emissions in time to reduce climate change, using research insights and lessons from the real world.
  • Bipartisan Policy Center: Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) is creating a framework for a potential carbon management program within BPC focusing on carbon dioxide removal and capture, transport, utilization, storage, and accounting, and bringing together diverse policy and industry stakeholders to learn about new technologies like direct air capture and develop novel solutions to fulfill net-zero commitments.
  • Carbon180: Carbon180 works with scientists, businesses and policymakers to build a world that removes more carbon than it emits, and is partnering with environmental justice advocates to help ensure fair deployment of CO2 removal technologies. Carbon180 will regrant $1 million of CZI funding to environmental justice organizations.
  • CarbonBuilt: Concrete is a major contributor to climate change—responsible for almost 10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. CarbonBuilt—winner of the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE—uses a suite of highly-available, low-cost and low-carbon raw materials, combined with CO2 taken directly from industrial sources or from emerging direct air capture solutions, to reduce concrete’s emissions by at least 60 percent. Read the press release to learn more.
  • CarbonPlan: CarbonPlan uses public data and open science to accelerate climate action, aiming to ensure the quality, scientific integrity, and transparency of climate solutions. This research-focused nonprofit assesses the effectiveness of different strategies for permanently removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. 
  • ClimateWorks Foundation’s Carbon Dioxide Removal Program: ClimateWorks Foundation’s Carbon Dioxide Removal Program focuses on responsibly scaling and bringing down the costs of carbon dioxide removal, a must-have to solve the climate crisis in tandem with mitigation efforts. One of 10 climate programs at ClimateWorks, the carbon removal program supports research and engagement on several natural, ocean, and technological climate solutions. 
  • Great Plains Institute: Great Plain Institute’s (GPI) Carbon Capture Coalition brings together companies, labor unions, and environmental, conservation and clean energy organizations to expand deployment of carbon capture and storage that is critical for large-scale carbon management to meet climate goals. GPI combines a consensus-building approach, expert knowledge, research and analysis, and local action to work on solutions that strengthen communities and provide greater economic opportunity through the creation of higher-paying jobs, expansion of the nation’s industrial base, and greater domestic energy independence while eliminating carbon emissions.
  • Prime Coalition’s new program Azolla: Prime partners with catalytic investors to support extraordinary companies that combat climate change. Prime’s new program Azolla is a catalytic investment fund that will find and support overlooked innovation with the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at gigaton scale.


About the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative was founded in 2015 to help solve some of society’s toughest challenges — from eradicating disease and improving education, to addressing the needs of our local communities. Our mission is to build a more inclusive, just, and healthy future for everyone. For more information, please visit chanzuckerberg.com.

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