2021 has been a landmark year for Clean Air Task Force, and for the movement to decarbonize the global economy and energy system.
As the staggering size of the climate challenge comes into full view, we’re proud to lead a much-needed paradigm shift in the climate community — pushing forward a pragmatic approach to advocacy that’s rooted in science and economics, and that’s free from ideology. Our thesis — echoed by leading climate scientists and economic modelers — is that we must both immediately slow the damage caused by greenhouse gas emissions and rapidly advance a full suite of carbon-free technologies to maximize our chances of reaching a zero-emissions, high-energy planet at an affordable cost. We’ve made some important moves forward this year in our effort to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
Here are just a few of CATF’s achievements in 2021, our 25th year.
A Milestone on Methane
CATF was the very first environmental organization to sound the alarm on methane pollution 20 years ago, and has been building coalitions and advocating to reduce methane emissions ever since. That work reached a milestone at COP26 in Glasgow this year, where more than 100 heads of state from around the world joined together to launch the Global Methane Pledge, committing to reduce their collective methane emissions by 30% by 2030. The next step is to turn that ambition into action. CATF is actively advocating for smart methane policies to detect and repair methane leaks and establish clear regulatory measures to reduce methane emissions around the world.
In 2021, our newly launched #CutMethaneEU campaign highlighted methane leaks at oil and gas sites across Europe and made a decisive impact on the EU’s proposed methane legislation, which includes many of the policies we developed and advocated for. Meanwhile, our experts in the U.S. pushed the Environmental Protection Agency to propose a new, stronger rule to regulate methane emissions from the oil and gas industry, addressing existing sources of methane nationwide for the first time.
Higher-Impact Electricity Procurement
This year, CATF helped socialize a new gold standard for corporate and government electricity procurement: 100% carbon-free electricity procurement, 24 hours a day and seven days a week. With this approach, energy purchasers avoid the use of carbon-emitting fossil energy to power their operations when the sun isn’t shining and wind isn’t blowing — mapping carbon emissions to actual reductions in every community all the time (rather than simply “offsetting” those emissions), while stimulating the market for clean firm technologies like carbon capture, nuclear energy, and zero-carbon fuels.
We were the first green group to join with 40 signatories, including Google and the government of Iceland, to launch the UN’s 24/7 Carbon-Free Energy Compact in 2021. We also mobilized major companies and environmental organizations to advocate for and eventually secure a 100% carbon-free electricity procurement commitment from the U.S. federal government — the largest electricity buyer in the U.S.
Breakthroughs in U.S. Clean Energy Policy
We were also instrumental in developing and advocating for important climate provisions in U.S. federal policy this year. As part of this effort, we convened the U.S. power sector and a select group of environmental organizations to form the Carbon-Free Technology Initiative — a first-of-its-kind coalition advocating for policies to ensure the commercial availability of affordable, carbon-free, 24/7 power technology options. Our advocacy helped secure critical investment in new clean hydrogen hubs, support for existing nuclear power, expansion of clean energy demonstration programs, and additional infrastructure funding for carbon capture and storage in the recently passed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. We also helped develop and advance key climate and energy provisions in the Build Back Better Act, which are critical to meeting U.S. climate goals and which we will continue to pursue as part of that bill or separately.
Championing Carbon Management in Europe
As part of our growing body of advocacy in the European Union, we partnered with the environmental group Bellona to launch the #TenETuesday campaign, pressing for support for carbon storage sites and infrastructure to transport captured emissions as part of the Trans-European Energy Infrastructure (TEN-E) reform. The campaign has raised awareness for carbon capture, removal, and storage, and brought diverse voices from academia, science, industry, and advocacy into the discussion.
Zeroing in on Zero-Carbon Fuels
While electrification is a critical component of decarbonization, our analysis has found that zero-carbon fuels like hydrogen and ammonia are essential to decarbonizing hard-to-electrify sectors like global marine shipping, industrial processes, ironmaking, and long-haul trucking. This year, we formally launched our Zero-Carbon Fuels program, with experts advocating for policies to advance zero-carbon fuels and conducting research on their potential to decarbonize marine shipping, long-haul heavy trucking, as well as transportation writ large. Our experts even produced a new report on the potential for nuclear energy to generate zero-carbon fuels to decarbonize marine shipping.
These efforts and more have brought us closer to catalyzing the changes needed to reach a fully decarbonized global energy system, and they’ve been recognized by the likes of Giving Green, Founders Pledge, Vox, and The Atlantic — all of whom have put CATF at the very top of their lists for effectiveness in combating climate change.
As we look ahead, we are laser-focused on one thing: keeping carbon out of the atmosphere. In 2022, we’re expanding our work in Africa and the Middle East and launching a new program focused on driving affordable energy expansion in emerging economies while driving emissions to zero over the long run. We’re also pioneering research and advocacy around superhot rock geothermal energy — a cutting edge new technology with the potential to meet long-term global demand for zero-carbon, 24/7 power.
At CATF, we challenge conventional wisdom, ask difficult questions and explore every climate management opportunity that offers promise. We’ve done so for more than 25 years. It takes courage to think big and ask hard questions, and we’re grateful for all of the ways our partners have supported us along this journey. We’re proud of what we’ve achieved together and we hope you’ll join us in making 2022 another year of remarkable progress on the journey.