Update on CATF's plans for 2020

by Sanjay 2 min read24th Dec 20191 comment

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As SoGive has facilitated a material amount of donations to the Clean Air Task Force (CATF), we are holding occasional update calls with them. Notes from the most recent call on 18th Dec 2019 follow.

This is cross-posted from the SoGive blog.

Update videoconference with CATF

This was a regular update call between SoGive and CATF. CATF was represented by

· Armond Cohen, CATF Executive Director

· Kurt Waltzer, CATF Managing Director

· Conrad Schneider, Advocacy Director

· Deepika Nagabhushan, Program Director, Decarbonized Fossil Energy

· Mike Fowler, Director, Advanced Energy Technology Research

These notes were written by Sanjay from SoGive after the call, and checked by CATF for factual accuracy or inadvertent inclusion of confidential information.

The main theme of this call was understanding CATF’s plans for 2020.


The main theme for this call with CATF was CATF’s plans for the coming year (2020).

The above pie chart shows how CATF plans to allocate its resources to different areas of work. The total planned spend is $6.9m, or $8m-$9m including overheads.

Energy systems analysis refers to analysis-based thought leadership about the best way to achieve climate-friendly outcomes from the global energy system.

Advanced energy technologies refers to projects such as zero carbon fuels (e.g. hydrogen and ammonia) and deep superhot geothermal.

SoGive question: how is the split between different areas of work determined. CATF answered that it was largely based on funding restrictions.

SoGive question: how would you allocate this differently if all the budget were unrestricted? CATF answer: it wouldn’t be hugely different – perhaps a bit more emphasis on methane.

SoGive question: Part of the reason for SoGive’s interest in directing funding to CATF is CATF’s focus on USA, and to some extent China and India. Can you indicate where the work on China and India fit in here.

The China work is mostly within the CCS (Carbon Capture and Storage) work and some of the nuclear and methane work. CCS work is a good fit for China because they have over 1000 GW of fairly young coal plants; the plants are probably going to be running for at least c.50 years. Another reason is that China has suitable places to store captured carbon within its geography (not everywhere has that). Furthermore, China having this knowledge is potentially good for the world as a whole; e.g. with solar panels, China saw an opportunity to manufacture these at scale and did so, driving costs down in the process. Another reason is that half of the world’s cement production is in China, and cement production emits more CO2 than all US coal plants; so the only options to tackle this are to innovate some sort of cement substitute which doesn’t follow the same chemical process of turning limestone into cement, or to capture the carbon generated by the process.

CATF’s China-focused work is a relatively small part of what they do, because Chinese policy-making infrastructure is complex, so it’s hard to figure out where the best intervention points are.

CATF received a significant grant c.10 years ago which enabled them to start investing in work in China, and they still have a Chinese-born member of staff who spends some time in China, but now has less funding for China.

In India CATF’s footprint is even smaller than it is in China, and they mostly work with an NGO in Bengaluru, the Center for the study of Science, Technology and Policy.

A summary of CATF’s main focus areas for 2020:

· Developing a comprehensive US climate change policy for enactment by Congress

· Partner with U.S. utilities to create a suite of technology innovation policies to make additional affordable zero-carbon emission technology options available in the next 10 years.

· Bring together players in the global nuclear energy sector to develop a new business model, regulations, and technology approach, focusing on the production of zero- carbon fuel as well as electricity. This follows on from an invite from four large utility companies for CATF to help them to plan to become carbon-neutral.

· Develop and advocate for a serious multi-country program (UK, United States, Canada) to bring commercial nuclear fusion to reality. CATF expects the benefits of nuclear fusion to include not just the expectation that fusion should be safer than fission, but also that this leads to a more cost-effective energy generation model, because of, e.g. lower regulatory burden (because it’s safer) and also greater efficiencies and less complexity through the need for multiple accident protection systems

· Initiate a global campaign to drive down climate-warming methane emissions from oil and gas operations, empowering citizen monitors with emissions imaging equipment to document major sources.

· Reports and pilots to advance zero carbon fuels.

· Advance work on heavy industry decarbonisation. This involves actively engaging with companies in the cement and steel space.

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