Note: This is our recommendation of Carbon180 as published in November 2021. As of November 2022, we no longer recommend Carbon180, largely due to their success in fundraising. See more in our Carbon180 deep dive report.
Carbon180 is an insider policy advocacy organization that focuses on accelerating the development of carbon removal technologies and practices, which would remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and lock it away for at least hundreds of years. Its four initiatives include (1) building and enacting federal policy to scale up carbon removal solutions, (2) accelerating the adoption of soil carbon sequestration practices, (3) encouraging community engagement between carbon removal researchers, and (4) stimulating innovation. Its tactics include research, policy advocacy, and ecosystem building. Carbon180 also centers equity and justice in its work to ensure that carbon removal can be scaled up in a way that is sustainable with equitably-distributed benefits.
Although Carbon180 is a relatively young organization, it already has a significant track record of success. In 2021, for example, it successfully advocated for the inclusion of billions in funding in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act for carbon removal research, development, and deployment (RD&D); CO2 infrastructure; and biologically-driven carbon removal (e.g. forestry). Its future work includes an effort to drive federal procurement of carbon removal technologies and products, which could catalyze scale-up and set a model for corporate investment.
Based on Carbon180’s accomplishments, strategic approach, organizational strength, and cost-effectiveness, we recommend Carbon180 as one of our top charities in combating climate change. For more information on Carbon180, please review our Deep Dive report on the organization.
Why we recommend Carbon180
We believe Carbon180 is an effective organization working on an important problem: carbon removal. It uses insider tactics to produce legislation that supports carbon removal, and has shown success in getting legislation passed under both Democratic and Republican administrations. It is a small organization with room to grow and absorb additional funding.
Here, we present our reasons for recommending Carbon180. We also recommend that interested persons read our Deep Dive report on Carbon180.
1. Carbon removal is necessary for preventing the worst possible outcomes of climate change.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), we need both emissions reductions and carbon removal in order to keep global warming below the Paris Agreement’s climate target of less than a 2ºC rise in average global temperature. In fact, the IPCC’s 2021 Sixth Assessment Report estimates that we will need to remove somewhere between 100 billion to a trillion tons of carbon by 2100 to prevent the worst effects of climate change. Delays in driving down emissions will increase the risk of warming exceeding 1.5ºC and also increase our need for negative emissions.
2. Carbon removal is neglected as a field and needs significant financial investment.
Although federal support for carbon removal technologies has increased over the past few years, these technologies are currently in their early stages of development and are too expensive to scale widely. Additionally, there has been limited demand for carbon removal technologies other than from corporate social responsibility efforts by companies such as Microsoft, Stripe, and Shopify. Support for carbon removal research, development, and deployment (RD&D) is crucial because investing in carbon removal technologies can drive down their cost and eventually enable them to scale.
3. Carbon180’s federal policy development and advocacy have been highly successful in securing support for carbon removal.
Carbon180 has successfully advocated for the inclusion of carbon removal in a number of bills, including the Energy Act, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, and the Build Back Better Act. Policy provisions that were passed through the Energy Act and infrastructure bill include authorization of a comprehensive carbon capture R&D program, carbon capture demonstration plants, regional direct air capture hubs, and an extension of the Section 45Q tax credit for carbon capture and sequestration.
4. Carbon180 is cost-effective in removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere (in expectation).
We estimated that Carbon180’s work on federal policy can remove CO2 from the atmosphere at a cost of $0.66 per metric ton (in expectation), which compares favorably to other high-performing organizations that we have analyzed. Because our CEA model only includes short term effects of Carbon180’s work on federal legislation, it seems likely that we may even have underestimated Carbon180’s impact and cost-effectiveness. Our results should be viewed as rough, indicative estimates given the uncertainty in our different model inputs.
5. Carbon180 has a strong policy focus and an experienced staff well-suited to influence policy.
Carbon180’s team is experienced in policy and its leadership maintains close ties to policy insiders, which helps improve the organization’s chances of success. Importantly, its president Noah Deich was recently appointed to the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board, which works to improve the US Department of Energy's research and development portfolio and program activities.
6. Carbon180 can productively use additional funds.
Although Carbon180 has limited room for more funding through the end of 2021, it anticipates a gap in funding of around $2.5 million for its 2022 budget, which is estimated to reach $6 million total. Carbon180’s general operations is its biggest gap in funding.
Risks to Carbon180
The largest points of uncertainty in our recommendation of Carbon180 are related to its need for more funding and ability to scale. For example, an expert in the donor community said that it is likely that Carbon180 will be able to meet its funding goals in 2022 through grants from large foundations. However, given Carbon180’s past performance and current funding gap, we believe at this point it can still benefit from individual donations. Nonetheless, this may change in the future if Carbon180 can indeed raise more money than it can spend effectively.
Another risk to Carbon180 is the inherent uncertainty in whether R&D will sufficiently drive down the costs of carbon removal technologies and enable them to scale. However, because Carbon180 supports a wide portfolio of carbon removal technologies and practices, we are optimistic that it would be able to pivot if it became clear that one or more of its programs does not meet expectations.
For the reasons above, our team concluded that Carbon180 is likely a high-impact organization, and has decided to recommend it as a top-performing climate change organization.