Estimated duration
5 years
Estimated total value
Rocky Mountain Institute; Carbon War Room

Further, Faster, Together to a Clean, Low-Carbon Future


Rocky Mountain Institute and the Carbon War Room commit to form a strategic alliance to fight climate change by accelerating market-based solutions that drive the transformation to a low-carbon economy. The Alliance will see a united organization that leverages two complementary impact models, two teams, and two brands against the toughest long-term energy challenges. With a global focus, and efforts already under way in China, Europe, and the USA, they will begin a coordinated approach to making industry-changing impact worldwide.


Carbon War Room (CWR) and Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) commit to form a strategic alliance to accelerate the energy transition. The alliance will bring together CWR and RMI as a united organization, leveraging two operating units with distinct impact models and brands.
Both organizations have a strong foundation of shared values and objectives. Both are market-based, independent, and non-partisan, and focus on technologies and business models that are cost-effective under current policy. Yet, both share distinct and complementary impact models that, when combined, can accelerate the actualization of a clean-energy future.
RMI, under the leadership of cofounder and chief scientist Amory Lovins, has concentrated on the unique opportunities at the nexus of business, economy, energy, and climate for over 30 years, unlocking market-based solutions that can be replicated and implemented now. The vision has been to drive the efficient and restorative use of natural resources. RMI employs rigorous research, analysis, and whole-systems expertise to develop breakthrough insights, and then convenes and collaborates with diverse partners – business, governments, academia, nonprofits, philanthropists, and the military – to accelerate and scale solutions.
When Sir Richard Branson founded the Carbon War Room in 2009, he set out to leverage the creativity and convening power of his fellow entrepreneurs, uniting the private sector to focus on those same intractable problems. The mission has been to accelerate the adoption of business solutions that reduce carbon emissions at gigaton scale, and advance the low-carbon economy. CWR focuses on the economic and industrial subsectors where profitable emission-reduction opportunities exist today. CWR accelerates the flow of capital into those opportunities by deploying its unique convening power, and by developing business solutions that are promoted amongst its global network of entrepreneurs and capital sources.
The alliance will couple RMI’s rigorous, strategic, and systemic thinking around energy use, with CWR’s entrepreneurial creativity around capital flows and carbon, to achieve greater impact.
Led by one CEO, under one governance board, the combined team will work together to determine overarching strategy for all operations, including planning and implementation, along with human and financial resourcing. The integration will be supported by a new legal framework that will outline the new governance and management structures. Back offices will be merged to enable greater efficiencies, while the two distinct brands will continue to operate at market.
The Alliance will develop innovative business models and information systems to drive demand and capital for clean and efficient solutions, thus catalyzing business, industry by industry, to a tipping point where clean business decisions make the most business sense.
CWR and RMI will continue their well-known efforts, such as RMI’s in electricity, buildings, automaking, and Chinese energy strategy, and CWR’s in shipping, island economies, trucking, and aviation, and seek to expand their collaborative elements. Key projects adopted for collaboration in the alliance will include:
Caribbean economies suffer from some of the highest electricity prices in the world, perpetuating poverty and fossil fuel dependence, and preventing any form of sustainable development. While Caribbean countries emit less than 1% of total global greenhouse gases, they are bearing the dangerous effects of climate change, with rising sea levels, increasing temperatures, and extreme weather events.
The CWR’s Ten Island Challenge has so far commenced in five countries: Aruba, Colombia, Grenada, Saint Lucia, and Turks and Caicos. Working closely with island governments and stakeholders, together CWR and RMI are identifying each island’s optimum energy future by developing frameworks that drive implementation, catalyze the flow of capital to renewables, and create an open playing field for technology providers to deliver solutions. Together, CWR and RMI will finalize the remaining five countries within a year. They will issue Requests for Proposals (RFPs) for renewable projects related to hospitals, street lighting, and utility-scale generation in the Bahamas, Saint Lucia, and Colombia. CWR, RMI, and their partners will help scale renewable projects by delivering technical and commercial expertise, engaging with governments and island stakeholders, and providing communications support.
The North American trucking industry spends billion per year on fuel, averaging ,000 per truck per year. billion of this could be saved and returned to the pockets of the ‘mom and pop’ truck businesses that constitute 40% of the U.S. market. There are over 70 fuel efficiency technologies on the market that are proven but not yet being fitted on trucks, in part because small fleets do not have the finances to commission technology viability studies, and in part because fleet owners do not know which technologies and suppliers to trust.
Already, the CWR and RMI team has developed Confidence Reports that assess available technologies, discuss challenges and best practices for their adoption, and provide figures on performance gains and payback periods. This work is being developed into an information platform that centralizes both the reports and existing data on technologies for the North American tractor-trailer sector. Together, CWR and RMI will review potential financial solutions, including a shared savings model for technology adoption and a crowdsourcing model for technology testing. Leveraging the relationships and transportation analysis generated by RMI’s Reinventing Fire: China, the insights of the North American initiative will seed a new China program. The objective is to double the uptake of efficiency technologies by December 2016 in North America, and to devise a program to increase the efficiency of the Chinese fleet by 2018.
If the maritime shipping industry were a country, it would be the 6th largest producer of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions globally (in between Germany and Japan). Maintaining business as usual will result in an estimated 250% growth in emissions by 2050, leaving the shipping industry responsible for 18% of global emissions.
CWR, in partnership with RightShip, developed the world’s first carbon-specific eco-label for the industry through Launched in 2010, the A-to-G fuel-efficiency label enables charterers and shippers to select the most energy-efficient vessel.
CWR and RMI will expand this global eco-labeling for maritime vessel fuel efficiency, spanning over 70,000 vessels, and will work with the shipping industry’s biggest customers to establish efficiency as a key criterion in their chartering decisions. This initiative aims to realize over 2 billion tons of cargo per year moving across our oceans on more fuel-efficient ships (over 1 billion are already in service). CWR and RMI will expand the number of ports incentivizing the A-to-G rating scheme to include: Port Metro Vancouver, Prince Rupert, and other top-10 ports, aiming to cover five of the world’s largest ports by 2016. The target list includes the ports of Shanghai, Singapore, Tianjin, Guangzhou, Ningbo, Suzou, Qingdao, and Dalian.
They will also release a self-financing mechanism for retrofitting vessels, which unlocks new sources of third-party capital to finance efficiency retrofits to cover multiple vessel upgrades. RMI’s expertise on China’s energy mix, derived from its Reinventing Fire: China initiative, will help to inform a China strategy for the shipping efficiency operation.
By Q4 2014, the partners will have completed all due diligence for any legal integrations. The partners will have convened an all-team retreat to enable team-building and determine ongoing strategy. The respective communications and marketing teams will be fully integrated, and the partners will have legally incorporated the new governance and CEO structure. At least four programs will be fully integrated, and the partners will have configured half of the new joint donor group.
By Q3 2015, the partners will have established the joint donor group. All programs that have not been fully integrated will be aligned, and there will be collaboration across business unit boundaries. The partnership will have jointly entered a new geography with a new jointly created program (i.e., Reinventing Fire: India). Reinventing Fire: India will build on RMI’s Reinventing Fire program in China, which is currently working with the Chinese central government and influential partners, such as Energy Research Institute, China Energy Group at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Energy Foundation China, to deliver an economically compelling alternative energy development path for the country.
By Q3 2017, the newly combined organization will have doubled in size in terms of budget and people from Q3 2014.
To help finance the alliance, a joint fundraising effort will target a new group of donors, whose contribution will be allocated only to joint CWR-RMI operations. The new donor group will be co-chaired by Sir Richard Branson, along with two other global influencers in the climate space, and will be looked to for their visionary leadership and expertise. This carefully curated group will be actively engaged ambassadors for the overall mission.
In terms of new geographic regions, once operations prove successful in one geography, the combined resources of both units will enable them to be scaled and replicated in other locations. For example, plans are already under way to extend CWR’s trucking and maritime operations to China in collaboration with RMI’s Reinventing Fire: China implementation initiatives.


The global energy challenge includes climate change, fossil fuel dependence, energy insecurity, energy poverty, and nuclear proliferation. Fortunately, many cost-effective, low-carbon solutions that address these problems are not just technically feasible, but are also commercially proven and profitable today.
The energy costs of wind and solar are now on par with those of fossil fuels in the Caribbean, Hawaii, and Alaska. The unsubsidized cost of electricity from the most cost-effective new onshore wind projects beats all other forms of energy generation. Solar photovoltaic modules have dropped in price by about 80% since 2008, and LED lights are 85% cheaper than they were five years ago. The world is closer than ever before to transitioning its economy onto a low-carbon trajectory, but there is a pressing need to accelerate demand and capital for low-carbon solutions.

Progress Update

March 2016

Carbon War Room (CWR) and Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) formally merged on January 1, 2015. Since that date, the two operate as a single entity deploying an integrated version of each other’s change models and brands. Working together, RMI’s analytical rigor combined with CWR’s entrepreneurial spirit leverages the speed and dynamism of markets to create change in our energy system at a scale and scope that brings benefits to everyone. This course creates prosperity across our economy and delivers other forms of return on investment: for health, the environment, job creation, security, and more.

Working together, RMI and CWR offer one of the best philanthropic returns on investment available today. Their work with the GSA, the nation’s largest landlord, doubled the efficiency gains of its deep energy retrofits, and now the GSA is aiming to make half of its buildings net-zero by 2030. They are transforming the electricity grid by remaking electricity regulations and markets, evolving utilities’ business models, and empowering customers with clean-energy options – making the grid more resilient and drastically lower carbon. They have contributed to major efficiency gains in both America’s trucking fleet and the global shipping fleet, slashing their dependence on oil. And now they are tackling China’s daunting energy and carbon challenges alongside China’s top energy leaders.

In the past year, RMI and CWR have launched new efforts to address carbon emissions from the global aviation industry, advance solar and storage in the global mining industry, and launched two highly entrepreneurial efforts to speed the deployment of renewables and storage solutions amongst the largest US corporations and across the commercial/industrial real estate markets.

Partnership Opportunities

NOTE: This Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Commitment to Action is made, implemented, and tracked by the partners listed. CGI is a program dedicated forging new partnerships, providing technical support, and elevating compelling models with potential to scale. CGI does not directly fund or implement these projects.