Meet The Coalition That’s Investing US$16 Million A Day On New Technology To Fight Climate Change

    The United States, Denmark, And Norway Will Lead Mission Innovation 2.0 With A Special Focus On Zero-Emission Shipping, Clean Hydrogen, And Power Generation

    One of Sandia's containers is moved in preparation for loading at the Port of Oakland. (Image Courtesy Of The US Department Of Energy)

    The Paris Agreement, which celebrated its fifth anniversary on Earth Day 2021, is arguably the single most important piece of environmental legislation passed by the United Nations over the last decade. But while the Paris Agreement mainly measures the progress of individual countries, there are other UN projects that resemble more of a collective effort.

    Six months before the ratification of the Paris Agreement, the European Commission and 24 countries (referred to as members) came together at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) to form Mission Innovation (MI). Over the last five years, these 25 members have contributed over 90% of the global public investment in clean energy. Since its inception, MI has averaged around US$3.3 billion per year in spending, but plans to increase its annual research and development (R&D) budget to US$5.8 billion higher than in 2015. MI estimates that it will achieve 21 gigatons of carbon dioxide (CO2) reductions per year by 2030 if the nearly 1500 innovations it supports are fully deployed by its members. “To succeed in preventing the climate crisis, the world needs to accelerate clean energy innovation and eliminate green premiums so every community around the world can afford to deploy green technologies at scale,” said Jonah Goldman, managing director of Breakthrough Energy. “This will only happen if we build a new generation of public-private partnerships squarely focused on climate impact and emissions reductions. Since 2015, Mission Innovation has been an indispensable partner in driving the global clean energy agenda. Today, it is entering an exciting new phase in which an even greater focus on deployment, scale, and market creation offers the promise of a decade of clean energy innovation.”

    Mission Innovation 2.0

    Mission Innovation 2.0 (MI 2.0) is the coalition’s next phase of environmental investment. It was officially launched at the Innovating to Net Zero Summit in Chile and approved on May 31, 2021, at the Sixth Mission Innovation Ministerial. MI 2.0 aims to reduce the cost of technologies that can be used by the public and private sectors to fight climate change. “As many governments and businesses around the world continue to commit to ambitious climate goals and to reach net-zero emissions, the need for innovation has never been greater or more urgent. To achieve the Paris Agreement, all sectors of the economy need access to cost competitive clean energy solutions this decade,” said Energy, Research, and Science Ministers representing 22 countries and the European Commission in a joint statement.

    The Innovation to Net Zero Summit in Chile kicks off with a roundtable from leaders of Mission Innovation. (Image Courtesy Of Mission Innovation)

    By successfully implementing new technologies through public-private partnerships, the coalition hopes to set an example that other countries and companies can then follow. What makes this objective more unique than, say, an individual country’s goals under the Paris Agreement, is that the environmental impact of MI 2.0 could potentially be greater than the emissions reduced solely by MI 2.0 projects. In other words, MI 2.0’s investments could have a multiplier effect that ripples through to public and private entities all over the world. The launch of Mission Innovation 2.0 is an important step forward to reach our collective climate goals,” said John Kerry, US special presidential envoy for Climate. “Reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 will require urgent action by 2030, both to deploy the clean energy technologies we already have as well as to develop, demonstrate, and scale the innovations we’ll need to fully decarbonize the global economy. The United States is reinvigorating its leadership in this exciting new phase, in which the Mission Innovation community will advance the technologies we need for slashing emissions across challenging applications including zero-carbon hydrogen, clean long-distance transportation, and CO2 removal.”

    Aside from the projects themselves, MI 2.0 has what’s called the Innovation Platform, which supports the suite of initiatives led by all MI members. The Innovation Platform is open to over 185,000 “innovators” from the 24 participating countries and the European Commission. The Innovation Platform provides the means to exchange ideas, track progress, and identify emerging R&D trends that should be considered for future projects. It also provides the network with which the public sector can gain access to innovators, investors, and end users that can then connect innovations with the end market. “Accelerating the transition to clean energy will be essential if we are to keep the 1.5-degree goal within reach,” said António Guterres, secretary-general of the United Nations. “To achieve this, international collaboration on innovation in sectors like power, transport, and industry will be crucial. We need countries to commit to raising their climate ambition, to take action, and to make this target a reality.”

    Focus Projects

    MI 2.0’s innovations are centered around three major industries: maritime, clean hydrogen, and power generation.

    Project Challenge Goal Mission
    Zero-Emission Shipping International shipping transports 90% of the world’s goods and is responsible for 3% of global emissions, potentially increasing by half by 2050 on its current trajectory. To set international shipping on a zero-emission trajectory, MI 2.0 aims to incorporate commercially viable, zero-emission ocean-going vessels in the global fleet by 2030.


    For ships capable of running on zero-emission fuels to make up at least 5% of the global deep-sea fleet by 2030.


    MI 2.0 will crystalize an ambitious alliance between countries, the private sector, research institutes, and civil society to develop, demonstrate, and deploy zero-emission fuels, ships, and fuel infrastructure together by 2030 and make zero-emission ocean going shipping the natural choice for ship owners.


    Clean Hydrogen Clean hydrogen has the potential to unlock the full potential of renewable energy and decarbonize hard-to-reach sectors, such as industry and heat, which are responsible for two-thirds of global emissions. However, clean hydrogen is currently up to three times more expensive than hydrogen produced from fossil fuels.


    To make clean hydrogen cost competitive by reducing the cost to end-users to US$2 per kilogram by 2030


    MI 2.0 plans to catalyze cost reductions by increasing R&D in hydrogen technologies and industrial processes and delivering at least 100 hydrogen valleys across production, storage, and end use worldwide by 2030, to unleash a global clean hydrogen economy.


    Green-Powered Future Variable renewable energy, such as solar and wind, is already the lowest-emission and lowest-cost form of electricity generation in many regions, but its inherent intermittency limits the potential for electricity systems to integrate very high levels of renewable power.


    By 2030, MI 2.0 wants to demonstrate that power systems in different geographies and climates are able to effectively integrate up to 100% variable renewable energies in their generation mix and maintain a cost-efficient, secure, and resilient system.


    Through large-scale demonstrations and enhanced investments in research and development, MI 2.0 will develop a toolbox of innovative solutions to provide confidence that all countries can build a renewable-powered future and realize an affordable clean energy transition.


    Data Source: Mission Innovation 2.0 Impact Report

    The Zero-Emission Shipping Mission

    On June 2, 2021, two days after members approved MI 2.0, The US Department of Energy announced that the governments of Denmark, Norway, and the United States, along with the Global Maritime Forum and the Maersk Mc-Kinney Møller Center for Zero-Carbon Shipping, would lead the Zero-Emission Shipping Mission with support from the governments of India, Morocco, the UK, Singapore, France, Ghana, and South Korea. “Through fearless technological innovation, ambitious clean energy deployment, and constructive international collaboration, we can build a net-zero carbon economy that creates millions of jobs and lifts our citizens into greater prosperity,” said Jennifer Granholm, US secretary of Energy.

    A tanker unloads crude oil on the Natchez River at the Sunoco Terminal near Nederland, Texas. (Image Courtesy Of The US Department Of Energy)

    The international maritime industry carries 80% to 90% of global trade and is generally less harmful to the environment than transport by freight or rail. However, international maritime shipping still contributes between 2% and 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions. According to MI, emissions from the sector could increase between 50% and 250% by 2050 without immediate and concerted efforts. “The IEA’s Global Roadmap to Net Zero by 2050 shows that by mid-century, almost half the reductions in CO2 emissions will need to come from technologies that are currently at the demonstration or prototype phase,” said Faith Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency (IEA). “This means major innovation efforts are required by 2030 in order to bring these new technologies to market in time and scale them up over the coming decades. Our Roadmap also highlights that without stronger international cooperation on clean energy innovation, it could take decades longer for the world to reach net-zero emissions. Mission Innovation is a clear example of how governments can work together in this critical area, and the IEA is committed to supporting these efforts to boost clean energy innovation to meet our shared climate goals.”

    Balancing New Technology With Economic Viability

    The MI coalition’s goal isn’t just to reduce maritime emissions, but rather, to show that zero-emission ships can be commercially viable alternatives to their fossil fuel-based counterparts. Like most of MI’s projects, the challenge is equal parts technological and economical. If zero-emission ships aren’t cost effective, they will likely flounder without government subsidies. MI’s goal is to have at least 200 zero-emission ships regularly traveling on deep sea shipping routes by 2030. Key fuel sources will be hydrogen-based zero-emission fuels such as green hydrogen, green ammonia, green methanol, and biofuels.

    A cargo lift equipped with a flywheel at Kodiak, Alaska. (Image Courtesy Of Dennis Schroeder, NREL, US Department Of Energy)

    The Zero-Emission Shipping Mission plans to focus on the entire value chain, from the ship itself, to fuel production, to fuel infrastructure. It also aims to work with both the public and private sector to develop partnerships that can help decarbonize each element of the maritime shipping value chain. As with other MI projects, a critical element of the shipping mission will be collaboration. If one country demonstrates successful policies, programs, and public-private partnerships, then it’s encouraged that they share this knowledge with other countries to maximize the benefit. “Accelerating the transition to clean energy will be essential if we are to keep the 1.5-degree goal within reach,” said Alok Sharma, COP26 president for the United Kingdom. “To achieve this, international collaboration on innovation in sectors like power, transport, and industry will be crucial. We need countries to commit to raising their climate ambition, taking action, and making this target a reality.”

    “In the decade ahead, we have a chance to take major strides toward a 100 percent clean energy economy, and the more we support collaboration across borders, across business and government, and across levels of government, the faster we can make progress,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, U.N. secretary-general’s special envoy for Climate Ambition and Solutions. “Cities have a critical role to play as engines of innovation that are home to a growing majority of the world’s population, and this effort will help them create new partnerships and spread good ideas.”