Bruce Nilles
United States
2018 Awardee

Founder and lead strategist of the Beyond Coal Campaign, before receiving his Climate Breakthrough Award, Bruce’s efforts secured the retirement of over half the United States’ coal fleet. When selected for an award, he decided to shift his attention to eliminating natural gas and its impacts on air quality from U.S. buildings and homes, focusing on states accounting for 58% of consumption. He launched the electrification program at the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) to pursue this work and soon thereafter provided key support to the first city in the U.S. to ban gas in new buildings. Bruce and his team then worked to transfer that model regulation to cities across the country.

Shortly after his strategy’s launch, Bruce was tapped to lead Climate Imperative, a well-funded effort to drive high-impact emissions-reduction policies in key countries around the world. While Bruce left RMI and his breakthrough strategy to pursue this new opportunity in climate action, using Bruce’s blueprint, the team at RMI has carried forward the effort to eliminate gas in U.S. buildings. As of 2022, as a result seven states and 66 cities have building electrification policies in place, and nine states have adopted a ban on gas in new buildings.

Bruce was selected for a Climate Breakthrough Award because he was an outstanding, innovative strategist with a laser-focus on climate change mitigation. As one of the global pioneers in the movement away from coal, Bruce’s vision of challenging each of the 150 new proposed coal fired power plants in America in the early 2000’s was initially seen as laughably ambitious. And yet, just over a decade later, not only was 90% of those proposed coal plants halted, but now 270 coal plants of the country’s 530 are slated to retire. Climate Breakthrough was designed to help leaders like Bruce who, in the face of long odds, have turned big visions into real world impact.