“The Right Policy Can Turn Things Around”: Hal Harvey And John Doerr On The Countdown To Net Zero

The global scientific community tells us we have to cut greenhouse gas emissions roughly in half over the next ten years to avoid climate breakdown – but we need a breakthrough. That’s the impetus behind Countdown, a newly launched global initiative to champion and accelerate solutions to the climate crisis, turning ideas into action.

Countdown convenes a broad coalition of scientists, activists, entrepreneurs, urban planners, farmers, CEOs, investors, artists, and government officials among others to identify the most effective, evidence-based solutions to rapidly cut emissions while building a healthy, abundant future.

Energy Innovation CEO Hal Harvey joined John Doerr, acclaimed venture capitalist and the chairman of Kleiner Perkins, at a daylong virtual event with 50 other climate leaders, to jumpstart the Countdown event and discuss the breakthroughs we need to get it done.


Harvey and Doerr don’t mince words. Dramatically reducing emissions in just ten years will not be easy, but it is achievable with the right focus and strategies. Their conversation offers essential insights into the scale of the work ahead and the kinds of actions that deliver results:

We’re facing a huge challenge
Cutting emissions in half by 2030 means dramatically changing the status quo: “We are dumping 55 gigatons of carbon into our precious atmosphere every year as if it’s some kind of free and open sewer,” says Doerr, “and to get halfway to zero by 2030, we’re going to have to reduce emissions nearly ten percent year over year.”

We’ve got to be focused
We know the major sources of the problem and a laser focus on these emitters will drive results. As Doerr explains, “75 percent of the emissions coming from the 20 largest emitting countries and from four sectors of the economy within those countries, those being the grid, transportation, industry and buildings, we have to fix all of those at speed, and at scale.”

By focusing on the top emitting sectors in the top emitting countries, we can drive deep emissions reductions within the required timeframe.

We know what to do
If we move to a 100 percent clean energy grid and then use that clean electricity to power our cars, homes, and businesses, we can achieve net zero.

To put it simply, Harvey says, we need to “decarbonize the grid and electrify everything.” But, “we have to stop building polluting cars, we have to stop creating more internal combustion engines, and more leaky houses and more dirty factories, because those are a drag on our ability to decarbonize the entire economy.”

This will take strategic investments in battery storage and other clean technologies, Doerr points out.

The key to all of this is policy – which can deliver climate breakthroughs. “We need dramatic accelerants, says Harvey, “accelerants in R&D but also accelerates in deployment. Deployment is innovation because deployment drives prices down. The right policy can turn things around.”

We can get it done
Ten years is not much time to transform the global economy. So is all of this possible? Yes, Harvey and Doerr confirm, but it will take leadership, commitment, and determination.

“I’ve seen when nations decide to do great things, they can do great things,” says Harvey. “Think of America’s rural electrification or the interstate highway system we built. Those are huge projects that transformed the country. What we did prepping for World War II, we built 300,000 airplanes in four years.”

The question before all of us now, as Doerr puts it, is “can we do what we must?”

Watch the full conversation to learn more about the technologies and R&D we must invest in, along with illustrative examples from China and Germany.

The solutions exist, everyone has a vital role to play, and when we work together, we can achieve a world that is safer, cleaner, and fairer for all.

Over the next year, this coalition will support a series of cross-sector projects that set specific, bold goals and drive fresh commitments. Together, these new projects will form the basis of a blueprint for a net-zero future to be shared with the global community at the Countdown Summit in October 2021 in conjunction with the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26).

To identify the boldest, wisest initiatives we can work on collectively, Countdown needs everyone. Watch the full recorded Countdown launch program, then get involved and #JointheCountdown.