Story at a glance

  • Elon Musk and the XPRIZE Foundation invited individuals and teams from all across the world to create and demonstrate viable ways to pull carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere or oceans and to store it in an “environmentally benign way.”
  • Fifteen teams will be selected for the competition over 18 months and will each receive $1 million, while 25 separate $200,000 scholarships will be given to student teams.
  • The remaining $80 million will be distributed to the winners. The grand prize winner will take $50 million, second place $20 million and third place $10 million.

Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is putting up $100 million toward a competition aimed at finding the best technologies to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in an effort to tackle climate change. 

The XPRIZE Foundation, a nonprofit group that runs incentive contests to find solutions to the world’s biggest challenges, laid out the details of the four-year global competition on Monday. 


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The group invited individuals and teams from all across the world to create and demonstrate viable ways to pull carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere or oceans and to store it in an “environmentally benign way.” 

“Any carbon negative solution is eligible: nature-based, direct air capture, oceans, mineralization, or anything else that sequesters CO2 permanently,” the XPRIZE Foundation says on its website. 

The competition will kick off on April 22 — Earth Day — and run through Earth Day 2025. Fifteen teams will be selected for the competition over 18 months and will each get $1 million, while 25 separate $200,000 scholarships will be given to student teams. The remaining $80 million will be distributed to the winners. The grand prize winner will take $50 million, second place $20 million and third place $10 million. 

The $100 million is funded by Musk and the Musk Foundation. 

“We want to make a truly meaningful impact. Carbon negativity, not neutrality,” Musk said in a statement Monday. “This is not a theoretical competition; we want teams that will build real systems that can make a measurable impact and scale to a gigaton level. Whatever it takes. Time is of the essence.” 

To win, teams must demonstrate their technology can remove one ton of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each day that can scale to gigaton levels. Judges will also consider cost per ton of removal and the length of time the removed carbon is locked up for, with a minimum goal set at 100 years. 

The goal of the contest is to ramp up the innovation of technology that can be scaled up to remove 10 gigatons of carbon dioxide annually by 2050. 

The nonprofit said for humanity to reach the Paris climate agreement’s goal of limiting the Earth’s temperature rise to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius of pre-industrial levels, technology needs to go beyond limiting CO2 emissions and actually remove CO2 that is already in the air and oceans. 

“The world’s leading scientists estimate that we may need to remove as much as 6 gigatons of CO2 per year by 2030, and 10 gigatons per year by 2050 to avoid the worst effects of climate change,” the XPRIZE Foundation states on its website.

“If humanity continues on a business-as-usual path, the global average temperature could increase 6˚(C) by the year 2100,” XPRIZE Foundation noted.

Global carbon dioxide emissions have spiked over the past century leading to record temperatures and a worsening climate change crisis. Last year tied with 2016 for the hottest year on record.


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Published on Feb 08, 2021