Mission Innovation: Govts commit to accelerate innovation in clean energy technologies

22 Governments and the European Commission, collaborating through Mission Innovation, have announced four missions to catalyse investment and action to make the clean energy technologies that will decarbonise the most challenging sectors.

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The missions, announced by ministers from the U.S., India, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Australia, Austria, the Netherlands and the European Commission at COP26, will accelerate technologies to produce renewable fuels, chemicals and materials, eliminate emissions from industry, enable carbon dioxide removal, and facilitate urban transitions.

Combined with three missions first announced in June 2021, on power systems, hydrogen, and shipping, they have the potential to unlock affordable decarbonisation pathways for sectors responsible for 52% of current global emissions.

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Fully consistent with the Breakthrough Agenda, announced by world leaders on 2 November at COP26, Mission Innovation is a key platform for governments and the private sector to work together to develop and demonstrate clean technologies across multiple sectors. The aim is to use research, development and demonstration investments by government and the ingenuity of business and finance to make clean energy solutions more affordable, accessible, and attractive than their alternatives by 2030.

Mission Innovation members alone are projected to invest at least $250 billion this decade in clean energy innovation.

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“Mission Innovation is accelerating innovation across challenging sectors and technologies to enable a net-zero transition by mid-century. To raise climate ambition and drive the clean energy transition, we need to make major investments to develop, demonstrate, and scale up innovative technologies to enable a swift and affordable net-zero transition,” John Kerry, U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, said.

“To tackle the climate crisis and reap the benefits of climate action, every country, every company, and every person needs to contribute. Mission Innovation mobilises governments to operate with a clear, collective voice, and helps the public sector to work together dynamically with the private sector to develop and scale up clean energy solutions,” Frans Timmermans, Vice-President of the European Commission, commented.

“With the European Green Deal, the European Commission is demonstrating how to chart a clear course towards net zero emissions. Together with sharp emissions reductions, innovation gives us a path towards the Paris Agreement. We can make clean technologies more accessible for all, and provide a platform for all countries to reach net zero.”

The IEA’s Net Zero by 2050 report shows that almost half the carbon dioxide reductions required by 2050 will come from technologies that are currently at the demonstration or prototype phase. Reaching tipping points which make these technologies affordable and accessible for all will require enormous public and private sector collaboration. The potential rewards for doing so are said to be monumental.

According to the Global Innovation Needs Assessment, supported by the UK Government and ClimateWorks Foundation, with analysis by Vivid Economics, accelerated energy and land use innovation efforts by governments could reduce the costs of decarbonising the energy system by 28%, saving $2.7 trillion per year by 2050.

Energy innovations alone contribute to over 85% of these savings and could also unlock low carbon value chains worth $1.5 trillion in gross value added, a similar scale to today’s oil and gas production industry, and 16 million jobs by 2050.

Mission Innovation brings together governments from every continent, international organisations, and private sector investors such as Breakthrough Energy, the Bill Gates-led innovation investment programme, to spearhead the global investment and collaboration needed to achieve these tipping points worldwide.

On 3 November, Breakthrough Energy and Mission Innovation announced an expanded partnership to drive investment that brings technologies to market. This builds on the Breakthrough Energy Catalyst partnerships announced with the European Commission, the UK and the US.

“The only way the world can reach net-zero emissions by 2050 is if clean energy is made affordable and accessible for everyone – especially those in middle- and low-income countries. Expanding Breakthrough Energy’s long-standing partnership with Mission Innovation will help move that vision closer to reality by increasing our focus areas and funding for the research, development, and demonstration of new innovations and climate solutions,” Bill Gates, Founder of Breakthrough Energy, said.

“Without a radical acceleration of innovation and in bringing new clean energy technologies to market, net zero and climate goals will be beyond our reach. As a global collaboration involving leading nations and other stakeholders – Mission Innovation is a central force in fast-tracking and globalizing clean energy innovation,” Espen Mehlum, Head of Energy, Materials and Infrastructure Program, Benchmarking and Regional Action, World Economic Forum, stressed.

Mission Innovation member governments have already increased clean energy innovation investments by $5.8 billion annually, since 2015. These national investments have supported the research, development, or demonstration of nearly 1,500 innovations, with the potential to avoid more than 21 gigatons of CO2 per year by 2030, if fully deployed.

New missions will tackle some of the hardest to abate sectors in the world

The missions announced at COP26 bring together governments and the private sector to catalyse investment and innovation in technologies to decarbonise the hardest to abate sectors:

  • Urban Transitions Mission – Cities account for nearly three-quarters of global energy consumption and 70% of total emissions. By 2030, the Urban Transitions Mission will deliver at least 50 large-scale, integrated demonstration projects in urban environments around the world to provide a pathway for all cities to adopt net-zero carbon solutions. The results could help more than 10,000 additional cities reduce their own emissions. The mission is led by the European Commission, Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy, and Joint Programming Initiative (JPI) Urban Europe.
  • Net-Zero Industries Mission – Heavy industries like steel, cement, and chemicals, require extremely high temperatures and use massive amounts of energy. These three sectors are responsible for a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions. These sectors also encounter high investment costs for process equipment with long payback periods and a lifetime of more than 20 years. Unlocking emissions reductions at the end of their next refurbishment cycles could prevent nearly 60Gt CO2 and help put industrial sectors onto a net-zero emissions pathway by 2050. This mission will be co-led by Austria and Australia, with further information published in 2022.
  • Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) Mission – co-led by the USA, Saudi Arabia, and Canada – will advance carbon dioxide removal technologies to enable a net reduction of 100 million metric tons of CO2 per year globally by 2030. CDR technologies can complement ongoing emissions reduction and mitigation strategies – decreasing atmospheric concentrations of CO2 that remain despite those efforts. This mission will catalyze a global CDR industry by advancing RD&D and facilitating pilot-scale tests and deployment.
  • Integrated Biorefineries Mission – The transport and chemicals sectors are responsible for nearly one third of global emissions. Replacing fossil fuel-based fuels, chemicals and materials with bio-based alternatives could reduce these emissions, providing a renewable alternative for hard-to-abate sectors and support rural jobs. This mission will be led by India and the Netherlands, and further detail will be announced in 2022.