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Join us for an open webinar at 11am on 13 August 2020

€1M project launched to inform a net-zero COVID-19 economic recovery

Icebreaker One calls for partners to collaborate on groundbreaking project

London (United Kingdom), 3 August 2020 Icebreaker One is today announcing the launch of the first phase of Project Cygnus, a major new initiative to support regions and countries in their economic recovery from Covid-19 while accelerating their net-zero carbon emission goals.

Project Cygnus has been selected to receive funding as part of the “Pandemic Response Projects”, one of the two instruments of the European Institute of Innovation & Technology (EIT) Crisis Response Initiative – a €60 million initiative launched in May 2020 to contribute to the European Union’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Icebreaker One (a non-profit focused on unlocking the data needed to deliver a net-zero future) – has joined forces with the Global Open Finance Centre of Excellence at the University of Edinburgh, the University College Dublin (UCD) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to deliver an ambitious programme of work. 

Set to be delivered in 2020, the first phase of the initiative will deploy €1M in EIT Climate-KIC funding to analyse current economic and environmental investment trends. This will include those caused by the current pandemic as well as those pre-dating Covid-19 but which might have been exacerbated by it. The aim is to develop strategies for investment and policymaking that will address fragility and opportunities in the current systems that have been exposed by the pandemic.    

It will identify potential investment risks, and opportunities to drive both carbon neutrality and economic growth. It will also unpack how to unlock access to data flows that can fuel informed future investment and policy decisions in a timely, robust and scalable manner. 


The knowledge and insights gathered will be used to develop tools, data infrastructure and policy recommendations, as well as economic modelling needed to support a post-pandemic transition that addresses net-zero investments.

Phase two will build on the foundations of the first phase by providing investors, policy makers and decision-makers with practical tools to address the challenges of achieving economic recovery while also transitioning to net-zero.

Central to the success of Project Cygnus will be collaboration with partners across the public and private sectors. Icebreaker One is calling on national and regional administrations, asset managers, investors and leaders to engage. 

Commenting on Project Cygnus, Icebreaker One Founder & CEO, Gavin Starks, said:
“Both Covid-19 and climate change are major economic and social threats: it is vital that we tackle them in tandem. If we are serious about building resilient and sustainable economies we also need to be serious about achieving net-zero: the two are intrinsically linked. As the saying goes, ‘never waste a good crisis’ — as vast investments are unlocked to help restart our economies we have a unique opportunity to build into the future we want. This project will help us make decisions based on facts, evidence and needs combined with cutting-edge research and data science.”

“Many working on our climate emergency are concerned that we are losing the first year of our ‘decade of action’. I hope others will join us in making Project Cygnus a success to help those at the frontline of financial decision-making create long-lasting impact.”

Julie Calkins, head of Risk Information for Climate Adaptation, EIT Climate-KIC said:
“The project Cygnus proposal builds on emergent work to catalyse green regeneration and resilience — not only with the aim to ‘bounce forward’ from the crisis, but especially by using this opportunity to unlock insights, analysis, financial products and services that will facilitate joined-up thinking and embrace systems-level complexity. It has all the ingredients to succeed in supporting the COVID-19 green recovery and regeneration, therefore contributing to achieve the objectives of the European Green Deal.”

Professor Andreas G. F. Hoepner, Chair in Operational Risk, Banking & Finance and Vice President for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion said:
“Post-pandemic shock, it is important to approach economic rebuilding through a clean green rather than a red polluting lens to set up the best possible political and economic climate to hit net-zero 2050 targets. Through Project Cygnus, we will be able to assess the pandemic’s economic impacts across green, red and white industries* and lay the foundations for recommendations on how green recovery can be fostered by policymakers and financiers. University College Dublin is proud to collaborate on such a groundbreaking project that will pave the way for a successful transition to net-zero.”

Damien McGarrigle, Programme Lead at the Global Open Finance Centre of Excellence at the University of Edinburgh, said:
“We are delighted to be part of Project Cygnus because it provides the opportunity for better data-driven insights, which in turn will help collective decision-making about how we improve our planet and economies, and strengthen their resilience against crises, such as Covid19. One of the key questions being asked now is: If we had higher quality data to better understand our economy, how much of the financial and human cost could we have avoided? The dreadful impact of the pandemic has highlighted the need for better data, to enable quicker, more targeted interventions. The Global Open Finance Centre of Excellence offers the facility to do this through research and innovation – and we look forward to helping Project Cygnus gain valuable insights.”

Commenting on the project, Albert Martinez Sequero, Climate Security Analyst, United Nations Environment Programme, said:
“UNEP is excited to collaborate with Icebreaker One in this joint initiative to build resilience and tackle the climate risks that are shaking our societies, ecosystems, and economies. We must democratise climate data and insights to improve climate risk management and support decision making in the private and public sectors, which will help us advance towards a net zero economy. More importantly, it will enhance our livelihoods today without compromising our future.”

ACTION — Webinar 11am on 13 Aug 2020
Icebreaker One is actively calling on organisations, leaders and investors from across the public and private sectors to participate in the project. A webinar to find out more about the project and how people can get involved is being held on 13 August 2020 at 11am and is free to join. More information is available on Icebreaker One’s website


Notes to the editors:

Interviews:Icebreaker One Founder & CEO, Gavin Starks, is available for interviews.

For the above or more information, please contact: Anne Edimo, 07470 213 105,

For further details on Icebreaker One visit and for more information on Project Cygnus, visit 

About Icebreaker One
Icebreaker One is a UK-based independent, non-partisan, global non-profit that aims to connect private and public sector leaders to help reduce risk and grasp the opportunity to transform the climate crisis into economic innovation. Icebreaker One sets out to develop the data infrastructure to deliver a demonstrably net-zero future, influencing investment decisions of $3.6T in different sectors across shipping, transport, energy, agriculture and the built world. Projects to date include Open Energy, the Standard for Environment, Risk and Insurance (SERI) and Project Cygnus

Information on Cygnus partners

Icebreaker One leads the project as a neutral, non-partisan, non-profit, dedicated to unlocking the value of data to deliver net-zero financing. It will focus on addressing data infrastructure and governance needs, policy positioning, learning materials and frameworks, and communications to enable cross-sector collaboration.

Global Open Finance Centre of Excellence (GOFCoE), University of Edinburgh will help pull relevant data from across the financial system (banks, accounting providers) and, using the same hosting facilities as the UK National Supercomputing Facility and National Data Safe Haven, will map resilience and adaptation needs for future-proof finance that will support net-zero outcomes.

University College Dublin (UCD) will utilise its extensive research capabilities to provide statistical analysis at company, industry and regional levels to assess the economic impacts, giving comparative analyses across green (environmentally sustainable as determined by the EU Green Taxonomy), brown (fossil fuel and industries with large environmental externalities) and grey industries (industries with little environmental externalities or benefits) to understand how green economic recovery can be fostered by policymakers and financiers.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) will add scientific and field expertise on climate security through the Environmental and Climate Stress Index. This platform will automate the global identification of convergence of environmental and climate stress, and the monitoring of the spatial and temporal evolution of the hotspots, which will support the prediction of systemic failure risk and improve financial stress-testing.

EIT Climate-KIC is a European knowledge and innovation community, working towards a prosperous, inclusive, climate-resilient society founded on a circular, zero-carbon economy.

*About white and red industries

White industries – According to a revised industry classification issued by the Indian Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change in consultation with the Central Pollution Control Board in 2017, the ‘white’ category refers to industries that are mostly non-polluting. That classification builds on the Pollution Index (PI) of industries (“Any industrial sector is a number from 0 to 100 and the increasing value of PI denotes the increasing degree of pollution load from the industrial sector”).
Red industries – According to a revised industry classification issued by the Indian Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change in consultation with the Central Pollution Control Board in 2017, the ‘red’ category refers to businesses that are mostly polluting.