CO2 emissions can be transformed into high-added-value commodities through CO2 electrocatalysis; however, efficient low-cost electrocatalysts are needed for global scale-up. Inspired by other emerging technologies, the authors report the development of a gas diffusion electrode containing highly dispersed Ag sites in a low-cost Zn matrix. This catalyst shows unprecedented Ag mass activity for CO production: −614 mA cm−2 at 0.17 mg of Ag. Subsequent electrolyte engineering demonstrates that halide anions can further improve stability and activity of the Zn–Ag catalyst, outperforming pure Ag and Au. Membrane electrode assemblies are constructed and coupled to a microbial process that converts the CO to acetate and ethanol. Combined, these concepts present pathways to design catalysts and systems for CO2 conversion toward sought-after products.