CarbonX: Supporting the Next Generation of Climate Technologies


By Dr. Hao Xu, Tencent's Vice President of Sustainable Social Value and Head of Tencent’s Carbon Neutrality Lab

The urgency of our climate crisis is undeniable. As a global technology firm, Tencent is committed to achieving carbon neutrality in our own operations and supply chain by 2030, and we have been making encouraging progress. Yet as warnings mount that the world could miss the goal of limiting warming to 1.5°C, the global community must explore more pathways to a greener future.

Renewable energy, electric vehicles, and nature-based solutions are all examples of such bright spots. However, these solutions will not be enough. We must rapidly explore new technologies that can reduce carbon emissions in many industries for which there is no cheap or easy path to decarbonization. The next few years are critical.

That’s why we launched CarbonX, an initiative to identify and nurture new technologies and critical capabilities that will be needed in the quest to reach net zero. With our guiding vision of Tech for Good, Tencent believes in the power of technology to make people’s lives better, including driving progress in the battle against climate change.

CarbonX launched in March 2023 with an initial focus on solutions in the field of carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) and technology-based carbon removal. We are committing more than 200 million RMB (US$28 million) over three years, with the aim of boosting the next wave of green innovations.

After evaluating applications from more than 300 teams, we are thrilled to announce the first cohort of 13 winners. They will receive funding and other support needed to play a meaningful role in addressing the global challenge of our era.

The role of CCUS in decarbonization

For many hard-to-abate industries, carbon capture offers a solution. By filtering CO2 out of industrial flues or pulling it directly from the air, the gas can be safely stored underground or used to make building materials or sustainable fuels. Some of these technologies have a dual benefit: help prevent new carbon from entering the atmosphere and also draw down CO2 that accumulated over centuries.

To be sure, CCUS is not yet cost effective, but solar and wind power also required years of policy and financial support to become competitive. Even so, the International Energy Agency expects global carbon-capture capacity to rise more than sixfold by 2030, to 300 million metric tons a year, underscoring its emergence as a major player in the world’s decarbonization strategy. But that won’t be possible without adequate investment and support.

From research lab to the real world

CarbonX supports projects across three tracks:

  • Lab track: Supports nascent technologies under development at research institutions, universities, or labs. For example, some teams developed methods to use steel slag to capture and store CO2 directly from blast furnace exhaust, which has a positive side benefit of reducing industrial waste.
  • Accelerator track: Supports early-stage startups with commercialization potential. A few startups are converting CO2 into sustainable aviation fuel and valuable chemicals through tools such as electrochemical reactions or microorganisms.
  • Infrastructure track: Supports capacity building, such as digital infrastructure, methodologies, and other resources to help the industry develop. Some projects are also seeking ways to better evaluate sites for CCUS projects or standardize carbon reduction or removal measurements — developing better methodologies for measuring, reporting, and verifying emissions.

In addition to financial and advisory support, some winning projects will collaborate with our industry partners to test their solutions in real-world settings. Our goals are lofty. We believe that each technology, once at commercial scale, could reduce 100 million metric tons of CO2 emissions every year, equivalent to taking 20 million gas-powered cars off the road.

A hopeful future

CarbonX is just one of many ways in which Tencent is driving the transition to a low carbon future. We have led the industry in building ultra-efficient data centers, installed solar panels at other corporate facilities, and contracted supplies of green energy. We also provide many digital products, services, and initiatives to encourage a low-carbon lifestyle and help businesses reduce their own carbon footprints.

The path forward is not easy. But in uncertainty lies hope. We are excited and inspired by the passion and innovation displayed by every team that participated in this first phase of CarbonX. We also recognize that we’ve only begun our journey to fulfill our mission of Tech for Good and embrace the simple idea that businesses must step up as responsible stakeholders in society. We welcome more like-minded partners to join us to create a greener, more prosperous future for all.