Clean Air Task Force

Clean Air Task Force

The Clean Air Task Force (CATF) is an impact-focused non-profit that advocates for clean air policies. In addition, CATF promotes innovation in and adoption of neglected low-carbon technologies. Through policy change, technology innovation, and thought leadership, CATF drives impact to prevent catastrophic climate change through pragmatic solutions.

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The problem: Climate Change

Human activities have warmed the climate at a rate that is unprecedented. While climate change is poised to have devastating impacts everywhere, those in global extreme poverty will be hardest hit. Climate change will both push more people into extreme poverty and catastrophically affect the lives of people already in extreme poverty. According to the World Bank, “up to 132 million people may fall into poverty by 2030 due to the manifold effects of climate change.”[1] The effects of climate change on the world’s poor include forced displacement, destruction of homes and property, health effects from extreme weather events (droughts, floods, wildfires, hurricanes, exposure to extreme temperatures), impacts on crop yields, food prices and food insecurity. [2]

The most widespread scientific benchmark for measuring global warming is the rise in average temperature relative to pre-industrial levels. This has already increased by 1.1°C.  The 2015 Paris Agreement aims to ensure no higher than a 2°C rise by 2100 and endeavours to limit it to 1.5°C. But even those increases would be catastrophic. And the scale of global action required to limit warming to 1.5°C – a devastating, nonetheless best–case scenario – is historically unprecedented.[3]

The solution: Policy and technology changes in the global energy system

More than 70% of the emissions that cause global warming come from our energy system. Every year, the global energy system produces almost 40 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions — pushing our planet toward irreversible climate tipping points. As emerging economies develop and their energy needs increase, that number will only increase unless we make dramatic changes to the way we power our world. And in order to decarbonize the global energy system, we need to push for the technology and policy changes needed to achieve a zero-emissions, high-energy planet at an affordable cost [4].

How CATF works

CATF works to advance the policies and technologies necessary to decarbonize the global energy system, while ensuring that people in growing economies have enough energy to meet their needs. CATF’s goal is to achieve zero-emissions energy, waste, agricultural, and forest management systems by 2050.

CATF focuses full-time on a complete solution suite to climate change mitigation. Broadly their work is divided between: (1) clean air policy advocacy and (2) promotion of innovation in neglected low-carbon technologies. Much of their clean air policy work includes advocating in the US at the state and federal level for technology standards and regulations of fossil fuel emitting infrastructure in electricity production, industry and transport, but they have also advised several countries on methane regulation development. Their technology innovation work involves changing the conversation around decarbonisation, and encouraging policymakers, energy researchers and other non-profits to take a technology-agnostic approach to decarbonisation.[5] Some of the neglected low-carbon technologies that CATF promotes include carbon capture and storage (CCS), superhot rock geothermal energy, advanced nuclear energy and zero-carbon fuels.[6]

CATF Team Work Session

CATF’s policy advocacy and technology innovation work are closely intertwined: CATF runs highly effective and pragmatic campaigns to encourage policy support for innovation in low–carbon technologies. By elevating these technology areas to public attention and advocating for favorable policies, CATF can help accelerate the development of technologies that would otherwise struggle to secure funding.[7]

What makes CATF so effective

Proven Results

CATF has an outstanding track record in achieving policy change. CATF has successfully advocated for the inclusion of clean energy and technology provisions in several bills, including  the Energy Act of 2020, Global Methane Pledge, Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and Build Back Better Act.

Moreover, CATF played a crucial role in driving forward a number of key policy changes in the US, including: Establishing pollution controls on the power sector under the Clean Air Act 1996 to 2006 and afterwards; Catalyzing the national diesel clean-up campaign from 2003 to 2012, which led to multiple pieces of related legislation at the local, state, and national levels; and Successfully advocating for multiple methane reduction regulations from 2009 to present.[8]

Scientific Approach

CATF builds momentum for solutions based on scientific evidence, intellectual integrity, and pragmatism. They think carefully about project prioritisation and explicitly focus on important but neglected climate solutions. They are guided by what the science says about which solutions are needed in order to solve climate change, rather than following prevailing opinion among other NGOs. Their staff also make contributions to the research and have convened and contributed to numerous highly influential studies that have helped to change the conversation in energy policy circles [9]

Focus on neglected technologies and policy areas

Overall, the technologies and policy areas that CATF actively focuses their work on are relatively neglected areas that do not otherwise receive much attention in the climate space. By elevating these issue areas to public attention and advocating for favorable policies, CATF can help accelerate the development of technologies that would otherwise struggle to secure funding. Some of the neglected low-carbon technologies that CATF promotes include carbon capture and storage (CCS), superhot rock geothermal energy, advanced nuclear energy and zero-carbon fuels. [10]


In 2018, Founders Pledge conducted a cost-effectiveness analysis (CEA) of CATF’s past work on three projects: targeting coal plants for non-climate pollutants, reducing methane emissions, and advocating for tax credits for carbon capture and storage. Founders Pledge found that CATF averted one ton of CO2-equivalent (CO2e) per $1.26 spent (range of $0.35 to $4.40). In a forward-looking estimate of CATF’s work on advanced nuclear, Founders Pledge estimated that CATF’s work will avert one ton of CO2e per $0.29 spent (range of $0.03 to $5.50). [11]

Recognition for CATF

The CATF Executive Director Armond Cohen was awarded the prestigious Sam Rose ’58 and Julie Walters Prize at Dickinson College for Global Environmental Activism. This annual prize is awarded to “an individual or organization that makes a defining difference and advances responsible action on behalf of the planet, its resources and people.” CATF was also named as one of the most effective organizations to combat climate change by the founders’ pledge [12]

Frequently Asked Questions

By supporting CATF’s work, you can help safeguard against the worst impacts of climate change by catalyzing the rapid global development and deployment of low-carbon energy and other climate-protecting technologies through research and analysis, public advocacy leadership, and partnership with the private sector.

The  technologies and policy areas that CATF actively focuses their work on are relatively neglected areas that do not otherwise receive much attention in the climate space. “These policy areas include but are not limited to:

  • Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) – CCS technologies remove CO2 from the atmosphere and store it underground for long periods of time. Carbon capture and storage is an important complement to renewables and electrification, because it can help difficult-to-electrify industrial sources (e.g. chemical, cement, iron, and steel production) mitigate their CO2 emissions. The International Energy Agency and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change both agree that CCS is vital to reaching global climate goals. CATF is working to develop, evaluate, and implement a roadmap of policies that will allow carbon capture technology to scale globally and deliver necessary CO2 reductions.
  • “Superhot rock” geothermal energy – Superhot rock geothermal is a promising nascent technology. Unlike conventional geothermal energy, superhot rock energy does not rely on naturally occurring hydrothermal systems (e.g. geysers). Instead, water is injected into hot, dry crystalline rock deep in the ground to produce steam, which powers turbines and produces electricity. Superhot rock energy is still in its proof-of-concept phase and will likely require additional engineering innovations before it can be commercialized. CATF has produced research on this technology and is working on building momentum for rapidly scaling superhot rock energy from demonstration to commercialization.
  • “Advanced” nuclear energy Nuclear energy is a non-intermittent and carbon-free energy source, and climate experts agree that the world needs large amounts of nuclear energy to reach current emission reductions targets. To advance nuclear energy, CATF engages in US policy development, international advocacy, thought leadership, and research. CATF also supports companies in adopting advanced reactor technologies and implementing innovations in their energy delivery models.
  • Zero-carbon fuels Certain industries (such as marine shipping) are hard to electrify, limiting the efficacy of renewable power in decarbonizing these industries. CATF asserts that zero-carbon fuels, such as hydrogen and ammonia, can accelerate the decarbonization of these industries. CATF works to accelerate the development and deployment of these fuels by engaging globally with companies that are developing new zero-carbon technologies and with policymakers to design favorable policies to encourage innovation.
  • High-warming “Super Pollutants” Certain pollutants, such as methane and black carbon, have especially high atmospheric warming potentials and negative effects on human health. CATF maintains that efforts to reduce these “super pollutants” alone could prevent more than half a degree Celsius of warming and lead to numerous public health and ecological benefits. CATF advocates for super pollutant policy at both national and subnational levels, develops funding mechanisms to help developing countries achieve emissions reductions goals, provides legal and technical inputs to U.S. regulatory bodies, and contributes to research, education, and outreach on super pollutants.
  • Power Plants – US coal, oil, and gas-fired power plants are a major source of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. CATF has worked for over 20 years to ensure US power plants adopt and comply with US air emission standards, including the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Mercury Air Toxics Standard and Power Plant Carbon Pollution Standards. CATF does so by scoping and drafting legislation, providing legal and technical expertise to regulatory bodies, and engaging in research, education, and outreach.” [13]

To date, CATF has predominantly focused on US policy. Looking forward, CATF aims to increase its impact in three main areas: 

  1. Geographic expansion – CATF aims to work in the Middle East & North African (MENA) and expand its existing programs and presence in India, China, and South America.
  2. Growing existing programs – CATF has plans to expand its current programs to achieve greater impact, such as it’s work on “super pollutants.”
  3. Develop newer programs – CATF aims to develop newer programs, such as by catalyzing interest and innovation in  superhot rock geothermal energy.

CATF would also use additional funds to grow and strengthen its operations.[14]

Fighting the climate crisis requires systemic change and we believe that the most effective giving opportunities are organizations working to enact such systemic policy change. Such work can have an outsized potential impact in helping people in extreme poverty. 


The US is amongst the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitters in total volume and also has one of the world’s highest rates of greenhouse gas emissions per capita. Furthermore, to date the US has not adopted strong, nation-wide climate policy under a comprehensive framework. Finally, the US is the world’s largest funder of research and development and could therefore play a crucial role in developing key technologies needed to fight climate change. [15] For these reasons, successful efforts in shifting US climate policy could potentially move the needle on climate change. This, we hope, will ultimately protect millions of the world’s poorest people who are disproportionately affected by the devastating impacts of climate change. Click here to learn more about the relationship between climate change and extreme poverty and The Life You Can Save’s process for selecting effective climate change recommendations. 

We recommend CATF because they are recommended by Giving Green and Founders Pledge: evaluators that are equipped to look into numerous climate change charities in-depth and are constantly assessing work being done in the world of climate change. We use their findings to inform our list of highly impactful, cost-effective climate change recommendations.

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