In August, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its major sixth assessment report on the physical science of climate change. The details, which I wrote about, are grim, and the report was stern and blunt in its conclusions.
The report concluded that human activity is changing the climate at an unprecedented rate, and was described as a “code red for humanity” by its authors.
It also assessed that regardless of mitigation and adaptation strategies, many of the negative changes happening to Earth will continue unabated in all future scenarios.
In short, there is already momentum toward a more unliveable, hotter, and more chaotic world, and right now we need many, many more efforts to stop these trends. The knock-on effects of climate change will impact society, as economies will be hit and issues like diversity and social inclusion are likely to fall by the wayside as people become more desperate to simply ‘get by’.
The commitment by many countries and companies to ‘Net Zero’ will also be found wanting. Mitigating the effects of the climate crisis might happen if every organisation on the planet went Net Zero. But I’m sure we all realize that won’t happen. Many industries and governments either won’t switch or be laggards. It’s clear now that Carbon Negative policies will be the only ones that have any effect, because these will need to make up for the bad actors that don’t switch.
It is also beholden of the tech industry to get into this fight, in a big way. Only the tech industry can move at the blistering pace the planet needs right now. The tech industry has the brains, money and, frankly, the lobbyists, to make a real difference. And it has it’s own CO2 problems to contend with.
It’s a little-known fact that the carbon footprint of the technology sector is greater than the entire aviation industry (Research: Aalto University and LUT University). At the same time, tech companies (like many others) are generally attracted to carbon offsetting schemes that don’t actually remove carbon from the environment and are often riddled with flaws. Only carbon removal (read: negative) offsets contribute toward Net Zero because they actively take carbon out of the sky.
This is why, as of next week, I will no longer be routinely taking PR pitches about just any subject to do with tech, startups, and VC.
I will instead be focusing most of my editorial efforts (you can find me here on TechCrunch) on two main themes, and here they are in order of importance:
Firstly, technology and venture funding which addresses the Climate Crisis, and secondly, technology and venture funding which has a positive Social Impact.
I will still be covering other kinds of tech stories, as and when. As a journalist of 26 years standing, I reserve the right to write about anything I damn well like. But if a PR pitches me about something which is NOT related to Climate Tech and Social Impact, then the pitch will be put to the ‘back of the queue’.
The issue with the technology business is not that the world might not need yet another ‘SaaS platform for accounting’, or ‘ awesome tool for developers’. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t. The issue is that the planet is now in dire trouble, and anything that is not directly addressing this, is poised to become largely irrelevant. In ten years’ time, when the consequences of the Climate Crisis aren’t just at our ‘doorstep’ but flooding our houses and forcing us to move countries, will we care that an AI startup was taking care of our insurance needs more efficiently? Newsflash: Your insurance will be irrelevant at that point.
Furthermore, I will do my best to avoid “Greenwashing” and also call it out where I see it happening.
Just to set expectations: Not everything I get pitched will end up being a story for me, even if it has these angles (of course – that’s just the nature of the media business).
I will also be interested in startups addressing the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), see below.
For anyone who is not aware of the various definitions, here’s a run-down.
1. Impact tech investing is an investment strategy that seeks to generate financial returns while ALSO creating a positive social or environmental impact. Impact tech investors target companies or industries that produce social or environmental benefits. For example, some impact investors seek to support renewable energy, electric cars, microfinance, sustainable agriculture, etc.
2. What is impact technology? Impact Tech is the proactive use of responsible technology to create or multiply positive impact. … Impact tech is an intentional use of responsible technology and science to benefit *people and the planet*, ideally addressing a major social or environmental problem.
3. What is Climate Tech? Climate tech includes solutions aimed at decarbonizing the planet. This can include transportation, real estate and agriculture, renewable power generation, electric vehicles, forestry management, among other areas. While “Cleantech” addresses humanity’s impact on the environment, Climate Tech is expressly concerned with the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions, a major driver of climate change.
4. SDGs: Hardware, software, and other technologies are an essential tool for sustainable development. They can be instrumental in ensuring that people have, for instance, access to clean water (through water purification, efficiency, delivery, and sanitation technologies); live in a less toxic environment; live healthier, well lives etc etc
Some examples of Climate and Impact Tech:
Agriculture Tech (as per Climate impact)
Buildings & Cities (Carbon reduction)
Blockchain / Crypto where it addresses Climate or Social Impact
Carbon / Carbon Negative
Carbon sequestration / storage
Consumer Goods Packaging *reduction* (example)
Direct Air Capture (of CO2)
EdTech (especially for emerging markets)
Energy / EVs
FinTech, only where it addresses Climate or Social Impact
Food Tech as per Climate impact
Health & Wellness (for wellbeing & social impact)
Industrial processes (Carbon reduction)
Social Impact tech
Space Tech as per Climate / Social Impact
Sustainable Fashion Tech
Transportation (EVs / Batteries)
Waste tech (Carbon / Plastics reduction)
Water tech (Purification)
Venture Capital (Impact / Climate)
The 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):
GOAL 1: No Poverty
GOAL 2: Zero Hunger
GOAL 3: Good Health and Well-being
GOAL 4: Quality Education
GOAL 5: Gender Equality
GOAL 6: Clean Water and Sanitation
GOAL 7: Affordable and Clean Energy
GOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
GOAL 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
GOAL 10: Reduced Inequality
GOAL 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities
GOAL 12: Responsible Consumption and Production
GOAL 13: Climate Action
GOAL 14: Life Below Water
GOAL 15: Life on Land
GOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions
GOAL 17: Partnerships to achieve the Goal
(Image Credits: Getty Images)