Launched in October 2020 with hopes to raise AU$300 million over five years, Regenerate Australia aims to rebuild the ecosystem devastated by the 2019-2020 Australian bushfires. Project goals include doubling the number of koalas on the country’s east coast by 2050, rebuilding forests and rewarding renewable energy production achievements to make the country more resilient to future crises.
11th Most Influential Project of 2021
28th Most Influential Project of 2021
A coalition of nonprofits are joining forces to restore the spectacular array of biodiversity of one of the first UNESCO World Heritage sites—which will also serve to bolster the economy through ecotourism. Fueled by a US$43 million pledge from movie star Leonardo DiCaprio, the project includes restoring Floreana Island, home to 54 threatened species. A project led by Re:wild, Galápagos National Park Directorate and Island Conservation, along with local communities, plans to reintroduce 13 locally extinct species (including the Floreana mockingbird, the first mockingbird described by Charles Darwin). The project also includes plans to establish a captive breeding program to prevent the extinction of the pink iguana. It aims to strengthen measures that protect marine resources and improve ecotourism, a critical component of the Galápagos and Ecuadorian economy.
37th Most Influential Project of 2021
It was unthinkable even a few years ago that General Motors—the largest automaker in the United States—would launch a project to take its global products and operations carbon neutral by 2040. It’s a powerful symbol of just how much climate change has altered consumer behavior—and the competitive landscape. What was once a niche position dominated by start-ups like Tesla is now part of mainstream business. Co-developed with the Environmental Defense Fund, the massive GM initiative calls for the company to invest US$27 billion in projects to develop electric and autonomous vehicles over the next five years. Along with its own pledge, GM signed the Business Ambition Pledge for 1.5°C, a shared commitment by global business leaders to set science-based emissions reduction targets.
Human-induced climate change has reached every corner of the planet and set us on course to surpass 1.5 degrees Celsius (34.7 degrees Fahrenheit) of global warming in the next two decades, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report released in August 2021. Such stark certainty makes a compelling case—and was only possible with a brutal attention to detail throughout the project. Compiled by hundreds of authors, citing more than 14,000 studies and approved by 195 countries, it paints the clearest picture yet of the effects of human activity on the climate—and creates a powerful call to action.
Part marine research station, part luxury cruiser, the roughly US$600 million Earth 300 was conceived to bring together 160 of the brightest scientific minds and inspire them to study—and save—the planet. Designed by naval architect Iván Salas Jefferson and being built by Polish naval architecture firm Ned-Project, the 300-meter (984-foot) vessel includes a 13-story “science sphere” that will house two dozen scientific laboratories and a cantilevered observation deck. Oh, and it will also boast the first quantum computer to take to the high seas. The station will eventually be powered by an emission-free atomic molten salt reactor, producing energy in a safe and clean way and opting out of high coal costs. Announced in late March with a crew of high-level partners, including IBM and Wärtsilä, the expedition is scheduled to launch in 2025.
Removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere could play a critical role in stemming the climate crisis—if scientists could figure how to do it effectively and affordably. U.K. Research and Innovation will invest £30 million over the next four and a half years to study five nature-based methods of capturing and sequestering the planet-warming greenhouse gas. Coordinated by University of Oxford, the project—one of the largest trials of its kind—will investigate the costs, effectiveness and viability of trees, peat, rock chips, charcoal and bioenergy crops on sites around the country. The project could go a long way in helping the U.K. reach its net-zero carbon emissions target by 2050.
Scientists from National Geographic Society collaborated with Chile’s Ministry of Public Works for a trek to the top of Tupungato, a dormant volcano near the Chile-Argentina border. This was no pleasure stroll, however. Indeed, they battled major winter storms to install a weather station—the highest in the Southern and Western Hemispheres. Positioned here, at an altitude of over 6,500 meters (21,325 feet) in the southern Andes, the instruments will relay temperature, wind speed and snow depth data to help researchers understand the region’s historic drought and predict the future of its threatened mountain water supplies.
Politico said it sounded like “an exercise program for the middle-aged”—but in actuality the European Union’s Fit for 55 megaproject is a bold new vision to slash emissions by at least 55 percent by 2030. How? The plan calls for big changes in everything from how people drive to how companies produce things like cement. First introduced by the European Commission in July, the measures will need to be approved by members states and the European parliament, a process that could take two years. But if the EU is truly committed to be climate-neutral by 2050, this project would certainly help turn that strategy into reality.
Heat waves are a major and rising global health threat, often more deadly than tropical storms and hurricanes, but receiving much less attention. With 30 partners around the globe—ranging from engineering giant Bechtel to the city of Chennai—the Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center formed the Extreme Heat Resilience Alliance in 2020 to educate decision- and policymakers about the risks of extreme heat and how to mitigate them. The alliance’s first goal: establish a standard of naming and ranking heat waves the way hurricanes are.