- Explores and develops market-based solutions.
Through our original reports and analyses, communications work, and events and conferences, Breakthrough will craft pragmatic proposals to identify practical pathways that get the most out of present day low-carbon technologies such as conventional nuclear, hydro, natural gas, and renewables; accelerate low-carbon innovation; and ensure that existing energy infrastructure does not obstruct the market entrance of new zero-carbon technologies we will need to achieve deep decarbonization.
Despite thirty years of growing understanding of the risks associated with climate change, global carbon emissions continue their inexorable rise. Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide now exceed 400 ppm and at current growth rates, will surpass 450 ppm within the next several decades.
Efforts to cap and reduce emissions have consistently foundered upon two closely related dynamics. Global energy demand is growing rapidly as billions of people make the transition from deep agrarian poverty to modern living standards. And the real cost of zero-carbon energy technologies still substantially exceed that of fossil energy. So long as these two dynamics remain the case, slowing the growth of emissions globally, much less reducing emissions deeply will remain extremely difficult.
A new framework is needed to simultaneously address climate change and poverty in the 21st century. Internalizing the social cost of carbon can play an important role, creating incentives to find efficient means to reduce emissions and to innovate. But given long-term uncertainties about the true social cost of carbon and conflicting priorities, particularly in the developing world, between short-term growth and long-term risk mitigation, accelerated global decarbonization will require a much broader suite of policies targeting accelerated technological innovation and deployment of low-carbon infrastructure.
For over a decade, Breakthrough has worked to place these two interlinked priorities—addressing global poverty through energy development and mitigating climate change through technology and innovation—at the center of the climate agenda. With the renewed focus at COP 21 on energy innovation as the central focus of global climate mitigation efforts, Breakthrough’s work has moved to the center of the global climate conversation.
Over the coming year, we intend to advance that agenda, identifying real world technological pathways towards accelerated emissions reduction and climate mitigation and practical policies to accelerate innovation for key low carbon technologies.
Solutions to climate change will not be delivered by mandate, nor will new clean energy technologies be developed in a government lab and given to the public. Making clean energy cheap is a public-private partnership, and innovative firms and entrepreneurs must be involved every step of the way. The goal of Breakthrough's research, communications, and network-building is to design and advance policy proposals that accelerate technological innovation so clean energy technologies can compete without subsidy in the market. Market-based instruments like carbon taxes will be all the more effective with cheap, scalable clean technologies available.
This project is mostly targeted towards a US audience, while also relevant to other countries – including countries in the developing world – that also seek cheap, clean, scalable energy technologies. Our aim is for thought leaders and policy makers in the United States to adopt our proposals and partner with leaders in emerging economies, where demand for energy is growing fastest, to demonstrate and deploy new clean energy technologies.
(Check sent: 8/30/2016)