Last week my executive perspective focused on the carbon impact and cleantech trends that we witnessed in the second half of 2019. If you missed our last installment you can read it here. This past year was critical in raising awareness around the monumental shifts needed to address the effects of climate change and stabilize our global environment, and we predict the momentum built in 2019 will drive positive further change during this year. Already we’re seeing many of the same trends rolling over into 2020 with companies adopting and announcing new sustainability commitments and high dollar philanthropic efforts setting up to put money behind driving innovation in conversation.
Let’s take a quick look at some of the major announcements we’ve seen to date starting with the companies laying out commitments to sustainability and environmental impact. For instance, EcoLab is stepping up to champion the water conservation goals laid out during the U.N. Climate Summit. And while EcoLab is regularly noted for their corporate conservation and sustainability efforts that align with its business, this latest commitment highlights the critical role that corporate entities will likely play in how we as a civilization address climate change. On the other side of the spectrum, under a new CEO, BP just announced their aim to be net zero by 2050 with specific goals outlined for carbon emissions and impact goals. And the other notable corporate commitment to sustainability and impact goals is from Starbucks, where CEO Kevin Johnson committed to new measures related to carbon storage, waste elimination, and fresh water impact, but most notably they have committed to do so under Science Based Target initiatives (SBTi). And finally, Jeff Bezos stepped forward in February with his $10 billion personal commitment to scientifically addressing climate change with the Bezos Earth Fund. This additional commitment follows the September 2019 Amazon commitment to the Climate Pledge, to meet the Paris Climate goals within the company by 2040. And all of this has been announced in the first two months of the year. It’s encouraging.
But returning to today’s executive perspective related to carbon impact and cleantech predictions for the new year, we do have some hypotheses and hopes regarding what we expect to see in 2020.
EXPECTATIONS FOR 2020
The first carbon impact and cleantech trends we expect to see will be additional ESG and sustainability commitments from private companies, as consumer purchasing behavior and market pressure increases (see above) despite continued uncertainty or inaction on the federal government side. We expect these to also be tied to impact achievement and verification – making sure that commitments are met, and are doing what is needed to meet global targets, such as the 2-degree scenario. We expect there to be continued deployment growth for renewable energy, and an increased discussion around the rapidly growing role of microgrids and energy storage in the future of the power industry (and building and mobility industries too). We assume there will be increasing financial investments in clean technologies from both companies and investors – from traditional cleantech, meaning renewables, to a new wave of investment in carbon utilization and removal companies. Finally, we imagine the momentum built from climate activism in 2019 will continue to grow and drive changes. People are worried. New risks are arising. Impacts are being observed.
OUR HOPE FOR 2020
On the other side of the spectrum from predictions, are our hopes for the future, starting in 2020. Across the cleantech and clean energy industries we hope to see the call for actualized and verified technology impacts. Up until this point, there has bas been no standardized or wide-spread usage of technology verification either prior to a cleantech being utilized or during the technology’s use, and without verification there could be a large discrepancy between assumed versus actual impacts of a clean technology. We hope that there is a consolidation or at least a consensus on the use of ways to measure and verify impacts – of technologies, investments, companies, supply chains, development, the list goes on. It is already clear that people want to know what they are getting into and reduce their sustainability related risks – having standard means of doing this with ESG ratings, carbon disclosures, carbon tracking, and other metrics will be critical. And, as it becomes more critical, it will need better data as inputs and independent verification. With ISO 14034 ETV, there is already a globally accepted verification protocol for new innovations and their impacts, it just needs to be adopted as part of the technology development and deployment life-cycle. For ESG ratings, carbon reporting, and other similar metrics, we hope that more transparency is provided and higher quality is required regarding data used to calculate such metrics. As we head toward valuation of carbon and investment decisions incorporating ESG metrics, credibility and transparency are going to be critical – as real dollars will be on the line.
Next, we hope that there is more movement on an agreement on how various strategies for carbon mitigation will work together and be pushed forward. There is no silver bullet – carbon removal, 1 trillion trees, efficiency, and other approaches will need to all be focused on and implemented in addressing our carbon future. We saw this conversation globally with the Exponential Road Map, but we’ve also seen it with the Energy Futures Initiative Clearing the Air report, where while the general consensus appears to be that investing in expanding, repairing, and creating Natural Sinks will be critical in helping stabilize the effects of CO2 emissions, clean technologies will be necessary as well. Finally, we hope to see the industry start to move beyond the critical focus of addressing the impacts of carbon, into looking at other known greenhouse gases including methane. The scientific community already knows that methane is much more potent as heat-trapping greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, but has been a bit in the background as an issue. Our hope is that industries are able to start looking beyond CO2 into their other atmospheric impacts, so that we can begin to tackle climate change from a complete perspective. Also – let’s pay more attention to carbon intensity this year. As our power grid shifts, EVs and electrification become more prominent, we need to remember where our power comes from – and it’s not just where anymore – it’s when.
There is a lot to be positive about when it comes to cleantech and our global carbon future. Global momentum is growing and though not always visible there are a lot of individuals, companies, and organizations already working to address climate change from their areas of passion and expertise. For our part here at 350Solutions we remain dedicated to supporting the development of verified clean technologies and look forward to making a measurable impact in the carbon future community. Whether you’re developing a technology improvement, a new clean technology, or looking to invest – we look forward to supporting your efforts from development, to verification, to deployment.
What do you think will happen in 2020 related to carbon impact and clean technology? Do you agree with our predictions? Let us know at 350Solutions on LinkedIn or @350Solutions on Twitter.
Wishing you an innovative and impactful 2020.