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Amy Harder interviews Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm for the launch edition of Cipher. Photo: courtesy of Cipher

An energy coalition launched by Bill Gates is backing a new publication called "Cipher" dedicated to the coverage of the climate crisis, its new editor tells Axios.

Why it matters: The outlet promises to have complete editorial independence from its backer, Breakthrough Energy, a six-year-old climate advocacy network founded by Bill Gates.

Details: The new publication will be led by Axios and Wall Street Journal alum Amy Harder, who has spent over a decade covering energy and climate from Washington D.C.

  • Harder, now based in Seattle, will author a weekly newsletter and will host a regular video series. As executive editor, she will oversee all editorial coverage for the outlet. She plans to hire a staff that will help launch a full website next year.
  • The word "Cipher” means zero. Breakthrough’s mission is to find solutions that will take society from the 51 billion tons of greenhouse gases emitted per year today to zero by 2050.
  • For now, the publication will be made available for free without ads or subscriptions and will be fully funded by Breakthrough Energy. Executives may consider additional ways to introduce sponsors for its events and newsletters in the future, but that's not in its current plans.

The goal of Cipher is to support Breakthrough’s mission by providing objective journalism from a global perspective about the climate crisis.

  • Coverage will include everything from essential technologies for clean energy — like clean hydrogen and electricity storage — to how capitalism can help or hinder the technologies needed to drastically reduce emissions.
  • "Consider Breakthrough Energy the driver — and Cipher the narrator," Harder writes in a manifesto describing Cipher's mission.

The big picture: The past few years have given a rise to several new upstarts, collaboratives and content-driven non-profits covering climate change and the transition to clean energy, including Canary Media, The Uproot, Floodlight News, and Currently. They join a slew of existing climate publications, such as Climate Central, Inside Climate News and Grist.

  • Cipher plans to not only produce its own independent journalism but also partner with other reporters covering climate.

The Breakthrough Energy network includes a venture fund, policy and research enterprises and an initiative encouraging later-stage climate technologies.

  • Cipher is part of the network's latest expansion effort, but Harder says Cipher will cover the network and its partners objectively. "Practically speaking, this means our editorial leadership will have final say over our journalism," she writes.
  • "We will stress transparency, including disclaimers when we cover topics, people and companies that are in or connected to the Breakthrough Energy network. I anticipate disagreements and tension — internally and externally."
  • Bill Gates tends to be focused on big breakthroughs in technology to address climate, whereas others in the space are aiming to scale up existing and emerging technologies, like solar, wind and battery storage.

What's next: Cipher officially launches on September 29th.

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Oct 18, 2021 - Energy & Environment

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Here are two big questions as a key Democratic proposal to slash emissions from power generation flounders: how much its demise would sap climate protections, and what might replace it.

Catch up fast: New financial carrots and sticks for utilities to deploy zero-carbon power — the Clean Electricity Performance Program (CEPP) — look unlikely to stay in Democrats' big social spending and climate bill.

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Facebook has agreed to pay up to $14.25 million to settle allegations that it discriminated against American workers by reserving positions for temporary visa holders, the Justice Department announced on Tuesday.

Why it matters: The settlement represents the largest civil penalty and monetary award that the Civil Rights Division has recovered in the 35-year history of the Immigration and Nationality Act's anti-discrimination provision.

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A sweeping new report released today by an Australian research organization reveals new details about how the Chinese Communist Party — and specifically who within the party — is carrying out its campaign of repression in Xinjiang.

Why it matters: Uncovering the actual offices and individuals implementing the Chinese government's genocide and forced labor policies in Xinjiang can bring accountability and help international companies delink supply chains in compliance with U.S. and EU forced labor laws.