Last week - on April 22nd to be precise - we saw countless social media posts about ‘Earth Day’ again. While we agree with the intention behind it, we think it should be self-explanatory that earth cannot be saved on one day alone. Fighting climate change is a continuous effort that involves each of us - every day. In this article, we have summarized our thoughts on the biggest levers for fighting climate change and the areas that still need innovation.
Every year, humans release roughly 43.1 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. A recent report by the UN states that the world is heading for a temperature rise of more than 3°C this century. This well exceeds the limit of 1.5°C set by the Paris Agreement.
If we do not urgently address our emission problem, the world as we know it will not exist much longer and we will leave great parts uninhabitable to future generations. Desertification, reduction of soil fertility and sea-level rise are just some of many likely consequences of climate change. According to forecasts of the UN International Organization for Migration there could be up to 1 billion environmental migrants by 2050. Another interesting view on the potential outcomes can be read in the book “The Future We Choose” by Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac.
Over the past years, governments came together to address the issue by implementing climate policies such as the ‘European Climate Law’. But researchers at the Center for International Climate Research (CICERO) found that we still have not made enough progress to avert disaster.
This is frustrating and highly concerning. Still, there is hope - we at better ventures strongly believe that entrepreneurs are the ones who will save the planet. For that reason, we look for solutions and support founders who are willing to drive a better future.
Shifting towards low-carbon electricity:
As the energy sector makes up almost 75% of global greenhouse gas emissions, we need to change the way we consume energy as a whole. This holds equally true for corporates as for private households.
Over the last few centuries, we unlocked new sources of energy to meet the constant demand. Our journey began with fossil fuels, then moved to nuclear energy, and now is slowly shifting to hydropower and other renewable energy sources. Generating your own renewable energy as a consumer is an important step in the right direction. While private solar systems might be the most established approach, the high upfront investment often drives consumers away. That is why the Berlin-based startup Enpal offers a subscription model to make private energy accessible to everyone.
To further incentivize consumers to engage in energy production Lition offers a transparent P2P (people to people) marketplace: Users can simply sell their excessive energy amount to peers. According to the startup, their customers reduce their carbon footprint on average by 1.2 tons of CO2 yearly.
We also want to shed light on a rather unknown source of renewable energy but with great potential - algae. The plant absorbs CO2 and through photosynthesis transforms it into oils, which can be used as powerful fuels. However, the current process of extracting the oils is complicated and expensive. Luckily, Phycobloom aims big as they want to produce algae oil sustainably and make it commercially available.
With new energy sources, new problems arise as well: Production of renewable energy, such as solar or wind power, can hardly be controlled and is dependent on environmental circumstances. The high fluctuation poses a problem for our electricity grid as supply and demand must be equal at all times. Therefore, we need to think about cheap and efficient storage methods as well.
In recent years, ultracapacitors have gained popularity and are seen by many as initiator of the energy revolution. As a lighter and faster-to-charge alternative to batteries they are used in industries including automotive, industrial and transportation. Skeleton Technologies, an Estonian company, has become the largest European manufacturer of ultracapacitors. The team recently announced that it received backing from the German government. Co-founder Taavi Madiberk said they will implement a fully automated Industry 4.0 manufacturing technique. This will lower the costs of production by almost 90% and facilitate the rollout.
The demand for raw materials required for production and storing of renewable energy will rise by 500% till 2050. Research by the University of Queensland emphasizes the importance of proper planning when it comes to mining said materials. We must avoid destroying natural habitats in the process as the potential loss of biodiversity is fatal. An effective solution is offered by the impact-driven startup Betteries. They upcycle electric vehicle batteries into affordable power systems.
When we talk about batteries we also have to mention Northvolt. The Swedish green battery manufacturer received a $14 billion order from VW and raised $3.3 billion in total, making it the biggest European Climate Tech by funding size.
Ultracapacitors and conventional batteries are surely not the only way to solve the energy storing problem. We recently talked to Phelas who are developing a completely new thermodynamic storage system based on the principles of liquid air energy storage. Thinking outside the box and coming up with entirely new approaches like these is crucial to solving the climate problem.
Changing the way we move:
Tesla an other electrical vehicle (EV) producers such as Nio have been very present recently due to their staggering success on the global stock markets. There is still a debate ongoing whether EVs are the vehicles of the future as they are not as climate friendly as they may seem. Production of their batteries results in up to 60% more CO2 than for normal combustion engine vehicles. According to the International Council of Clean Transportation (ICCT), the emission free driving should offset the manufacturing process in no more than 3 years.
On a different note, we should think about refraining from using cars as a whole, especially in urban areas. We see innovation going on in the development of hybrid vehicles for city centers. Examples being companies such as Canyon or Hopper Mobility. Others provide affordable means of transportation like the shared micro-mobility startup TIER Mobility. Customers can choose between an e-bike, e-scooters and e-mopeds to move within the city.
Further, we came across upBus which plans to revolutionize public transportation in all cities by combining two different systems into one: Autonomous electric-powered minibuses and aerial ropeways. This hybrid vehicle tackles the drawbacks of aerial ropeways while increasing their flexibility and applicability. In close cooperation with RWTH Aachen it's working hard to ensure the completion of an upBus prototype by 2023.
Reducing and setting off emissions:
sifted just published a map of climate tech companies in Europe. There are over 252 climate tech startups in Germany alone. In the past few months, we met a lot of startups (virtually) within the carbon footprint reduction and offsetting industry.
The biggest funding round in Berlin went to Planetly, while newcomer vaayu aims to win with a very focused approach. They leverage the existing data in e-commerce shops to automatically calculate retail companies' carbon emissions and provide real-time data. Besides offsetting, their data-driven approach also facilitates the identification of emission reduction areas.
While we see the future in carbon reduction, there is no way around offsetting our emissions as well. One popular offsetting method is planting trees to neutralize one’s carbon footprint. For example, search engine Ecosia is responsible for the planting of 125 million trees alone. Still, trees take years to grow and by themselves will not match the urgency and speed of action climate change requires. So why not use bamboo, one of the fastest growing plants, in addition? Planboo does exactly that to accelerate carbon offsetting. In the process, they help to repair damaged soils and support ecosystem restoration.
Revolutionizing the way we eat:
Food and agriculture make up about 26% total greenhouse gas emissions. To give you an example of how severe this is, current food production alone would drive us past the 1.5°C temperature barrier we mentioned earlier. Therefore, we urgently need to improve and innovate in this area. To give you some ideas, we have already published an article which you can find here.
Last but not least, the biggest lever - you:
At times climate change might seem like a problem too big to solve and your influence as an individual might seem neglectable. But to put it in the words of Bill Gates, “you’re not powerless. And you don’t have to be a politician or a philanthropist to make a difference. You have influence as a citizen, a consumer and an employee or employer.” This is the mindset we expect from the entrepreneurs that will save the world.
If you are a founder that is onto a big lever or has an idea on how to radically reduce emissions, reach out to us. We invest and actively support passionate teams with entrepreneurial experience.
Simply use this link to apply for funding.