The UN Climate Summit, COP26, recently came to an end in Glasgow, and with it was the future compromise of nearly 200 countries to hold more meetings. Global North countries acknowledged their moral and legal obligation to help more at-risk countries, particularly those already seeing climate damage. Many key countries’ announced their own net-zero targets and promising goals. Some argue the outcomes were not nearly ambitious enough and that there is still a large gap between countries’ long-term goals and current short-term action.
This gap is central to the discussion of climate change. We must examine what it actually is, how climate-clean technology and innovation is one of the keys to closing it, how such action will result in countries’ long-term goals being achieved sustainably, and what this means for our pacific neighbours.
The harrowing reality is that the Climate Change Commission alone cannot combat climate change with just government policies and interventions. Some governments and their agencies genuinely do carry climate change as an immediate emergency. And even though their proactive leadership is the best place to start initiating change, we cannot rely on policies alone to create long-term change.
This is mainly due to the innovation gap between long-term goals and current action. The gap between countries promising emission reductions through policy implementation and the technology currently available in the market. Sadly, available tech cannot achieve the emission results needed. Even with plans to enforce such reduction, we would still fall short since industries need to adopt new technologies to minimize emissions.
A Recent Greenpeace article mentions that if we keep the same climate technology readily available in the market, we will still be 30 years behind our targets. This is where climate-oriented start-ups will become key players in helping us get to zero emissions. We need innovation to help us succeed in our long-term goals. It is not enough to stop the way society operates; we need to adapt, create, and overcome.
This gap between policy implementation and lack of technology advancement is where sustained long-term climate action will commence. New, innovative technology created for the future by eager start-ups will help close the gap. This reality is starting to dawn on the world. In fact, ‘If Aotearoa could build and finance just 50 companies able to apply their innovations to reducing or removing 50-100 million tonnes of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) each year between them, it would be enough to get our country to net-zero carbon emissions for the rest of the century. It would also give those startups sizeable export opportunities and create high-paying jobs,’ said Derek Handley, a New Zealand entrepreneur.
Clean, climate tech is currently one of the greatest opportunities for high-growth and high-value business investments. These technologies and innovations will come from carbon credits, carbon offsetting, alternative ways to grow and create food (regenerative agriculture), software data to measure climate risk and finance, physical science, and a plethora of other technologies and innovations.
This will also help our most vulnerable communities, such as our Pacific neighbours. The New Zealand government announced a $1.3 billion international climate aid funding as a pre-2022 budget commitment, up from $300 million from previous years. Climate Change Minister James Shaw said that investing in climate impacts now can spare the most vulnerable communities having to deal with the worsening effects in the future. While the funding is aimed at mitigation projects to manage the impacts that climate change has already caused, the long-term projects funded by the aid will be geared towards lowering emissions and climate tech innovation. Such a dual-pronged approach is an excellent example of how strategic policy addresses pressing, immediate issues and looming, long-term threats.
Fifteen years ago, the clean and climate tech narrative was a vastly different story. Active global climate participation is the greatest it has ever been, and so is the demand for companies to be sustainable by adopting “clean-tech.” As the globe’s desperation for new, adaptive, and clean climate processes grows more intense, the venture capital funds simultaneously gradually shift their growing investment pools grow toward clean, green technology. There has never been a better time to be involved. Venture capital and consultancy companies alike have made climate tech a key factor in initiating change, with around $58 billion USD in venture funds to be invested in climate tech this year alone, up 60% from 2020.
Affiliated government agencies are also beginning to support climate tech advancement. One government agency providing grass-roots financial support in clean/climate tech is Callaghan Innovation in New Zealand and the Westpac NZ Government Innovation Fund.
Many venture capital companies are already engaging in the cleantech sector as they have recognised the potential for growth and the fundamental ethical importance of actively participating in climate action. With a focus on Aotearoa, companies like The Factory NZ, Sprout Agritech, Finistere Ventures, and Ice House Ventures all play the invaluable role of funding, facilitating, and accelerating the new technologies and innovations. Globally, The Climate Board based in the USA is closing the innovation gap by making climate issues in the private sector non-institutionalised and bringing together a magnitude of global companies to solve the problems as a collective. They can achieve these results by providing leveraged consulting and syndicated research to the private sector. They are actively partnering with top companies who want to create accurate long-lasting results that flow into every level of consumerism globally.
As expected, the solution to climate change is not a straightforward method of either technology, policy, or changing human behaviour. It is all of the above working in unison and even more. This is arguably the most complex issue the world has ever faced as a collective global nation, and the work of everyone involved is what it will take.
“Technological innovation is central to low-emission and climate-resilient development throughout the world,” said UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa