From reducing carbon emissions to developing fuel from carbon, these climate tech startups are making breakthroughs in fighting climate change.
Climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time. From a number of heavy downpours and hotter-than-ever heatwaves to droughts, things have escalated at an unprecedented rate. Temperatures are expected to rise by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius over the next two decades, bringing forth more natural disasters and extreme weather. Scientists believe human activity, such as burning fossil fuels and deforestation, is largely responsible for the rapid changes to Earth’s climate.
Fortunately, there are a growing number of startups that are using technology to help tackle climate change. So if you’re looking for ways to help the environment and fight climate change, read on for some inspiration.
In April 2022, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that we must immediately reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels to prevent global warming. CO2 is the primary greenhouse gas released by human activities due to fossil fuel burning and deforestation. Greenhouse gases trap heat in our atmosphere, causing global warming.
Canada-based clean energy startup Carbon Engineering’s Direct Air Capture (DAC) technology offers a potential solution to this problem. As suggested by its name, the DAC technology capture CO2 directly from the atmosphere to mitigate climate change. The collected CO2 is then either stored underground or converted into near-carbon-neutral synthetic fuel. The latter can be done by applying the company’s AIR TO FUELS technology, where the CO2 captured can then react with hydrogen extracted with clean electricity and be processed into gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. The startup has already demonstrated the feasibility of its technology at its pilot plant in Squamish, British Columbia.
Since 2017, U.S.-based clean-tech startup Sinai Technologies has been helping companies monitor and reduce their carbon emissions and price and analyze carbon risk. The startup’s decarbonization software mitigates climate change by tracking different departments within a company and then generating recommendations to meet its net-zero targets. Sinai’s mission is to provide emission-intensive organizations with the technology they need to develop powerful deep decarbonization strategies.
So far, the startup has customized strategies for organizations from more than 20 industries across 60 countries. In 2021, it helped its customers track nearly 35 million tons of carbon emissions and assess over US$5 billion of potential capital expenditures for carbon mitigation projects. In September 2022, the startup closed a US$ 22 million Series A funding round to develop more accurate, collaborative software and continue international expansion.
Icelandic startup CarbFix has developed a technology that can turn atmospheric carbon dioxide into stone through natural processes in less than two years. Founded as a project in 2006, the startup was formalized by four founding partners—Reykjavík Energy, the University of Iceland, CNRS in Toulouse and the Earth Institute at Columbia University—in 2007 to look for a way to limit greenhouse gas emissions in Iceland.
CarbFix has a mission to become a key player in addressing climate change by reaching one billion tons of permanently stored atmospheric CO2 by 2030. It has also partnered with Swiss startup Climeworks to build the world’s largest direct air capture and CO2 storage plant, Orca. The first-of-its-kind Orca installation is located close to ON Power’s Geothermal Park in Iceland. The project runs fully on renewable energy sourced from the geothermal park. It is capturing 4,000 tons of CO2 annually, equivalent to the annual emissions of 790 cars.
Founded in 2019, San Francisco-based software platform Watershed helps companies, like Stripe, Twitter, Walmart and Airbnb, measure carbon emissions and achieve net zero with real-time audit-grade data. It aims to remove half a billion tons of CO2 for its customers every year. The startup not only has a list of big backers, including Al Gore, Sequoia and Kleiner Perkins, but has also onboarded Professor Steve Davis of Earth System Science from the University of California as its Head of Climate Science.
In 2021, the startup developed a free calculator to help people determine the climate impact of hybrid workplaces. It helps to calculate how promoting hybrid work influences emissions. Users can gauge the extent of the impacts thereof by inputting information into the calculator, such as the number of in-office days per week, employees’ accommodation and commute methods, office area, corporate travel frequency and clean power usage. This calculator supports five regions: San Francisco, New York City, Houston, London and Toronto.
In November this year, it launched the Watershed Supply Chain tool to address indirect—or Scope 3—emissions that come from vendors and suppliers. It can identify Scope 3 emission footprints along a company’s supply chain using private and public financial and climate data. With this information, companies can then work with their suppliers to reduce emissions, and Watershed can customize strategies to help suppliers reduce their carbon footprint. This streamlines the supply chain and accelerates efforts in reducing emissions.
Seattle-based Nori is working to combat climate change using blockchain technology. The startup is developing a platform where users can trade their captured carbon for other financial rewards. Currently working on soil-carbon sequestration, Nori connects buyers (i.e., small businesses, startups, and individuals) with farmers who are pulling carbon from the atmosphere and putting it back in the soil of their land.
Built on the Ethereum blockchain, every “Nori Carbon Removal Tonne” (NRT) presents one ton of CO2 that has been removed from the atmosphere for a minimum of ten years. The startup will soon be launching its cryptocurrency, the NORI token, which can be exchanged for one NRT. The token will provide farmers with a digital commodity they can store, control and trade for cash whenever.
To prevent the problem of double-counting (a loophole where two parties claim the same carbon removal) of carbon removal existing in the carbon market today, every NRT will be taken out of circulation so that it cannot be resold.
The climate tech revolution
According to The Future of Climate Tech published by the Silicon Valley Bank this year, 49 countries and 93 Fortune 500 companies have committed to net-zero targets. So far, VCs have poured billions of dollars into climate tech, showing no signs of slowing down. The report shared that VC investment in climate tech in the U.S. increased by 80 percent between 2020 and 2021, reaching US$56 billion, with the energy and power sector experiencing the fastest growth. With the market growing steadily, if not fast, the future for climate tech looks promising.
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