Climate Tech To The Fore

From being currently used to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change, technology can also become a powerful tool to help achieve India’s net zero goal by 2070

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Looking back at the 26th edition of the United Nations Climate Change conference, or COP26 as it is popularly known, held last November in Glasgow, there are more reasons to be optimistic than despondent about the future of the planet. Although a grand unified plan to save the planet remains a distant dream, what gives hope is the commitment of individual countries towards this goal, as was evident in some of the announcements made at COP26. 

India, for one, pledged to achieve net zero carbon emission by 2070. That is the best it can do under the current circumstances. In fact, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a series of announcements at the summit, what he termed as panchamrit, and geared towards getting to the 2070 goal. These included four sub-goals: raising the country’s non-fossil energy capacity to 500 GW by 2030; increasing the share of renewable energy in India’s energy mix to 50 per cent by 2030; reducing the carbon intensity of the economy by less than 45 per cent; and reducing the total carbon emissions by one billion tonnes by 2030. 

And, it is not just state-owned organisations like the Indian Railways that are giving the pledge a push, and working towards achieving the net zero target by 2070. Private sector companies too, are heavily invested in furthering the agenda. Rajesh Rege, President, Honeywell India, says that they have put into place future-forward, sustainable solutions that reduce emissions and produce renewable fuel sources to meet climate goals. 

“Our ‘ready now’ sustainable, cleaner fuel alternatives including sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), renewable diesel, and green/ blue hydrogen will help build the platform for India’s sustainable future. SAF, an alternative to conventional, petroleum-based jet fuel produced by Honeywell UOP's Ecofining technology, can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 80 per cent on a life-cycle emissions basis depending on feedstock used,” he says. 

Rege further states that many of these technologies are developed at the Honeywell India Technology Center (HITC) in Gurugram. 

Focus on Climate Tech

In the process of going green and meeting climate goals, organisations are deploying various methods to accomplish their goals and a major focus is on Climate Tech. 

Climate Tech refers to technologies used to address climate change. These technologies can help us reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere. 

High levels of GHGs are driving changes in our climate, bringing extreme weather conditions such as heat waves, droughts, rising sea levels, all of which are disastrous for humanity. 

To mitigate the adverse effects of climate change, technologies like drought-resistant crops, early warning systems and sea walls are used. Such innovative technologies are used across sectors and are helping businesses reach their net zero goals. 

Climate Tech Startups 

Speaking on India’s G20 presidency focus at an event by think tank RIS, Amitabh Kant, who was recently appointed India’s new G20 Sherpa, said: “India will use its political capital and leadership to evolve a consensus to also achieve short-term goals including on climate finance.” India’s G20 presidency beginning December 2022 will focus on steps to revive global economic growth in a way that ensures green and digital transition and achieve sustainable development goals by 2030, he said. 

Climate tech is a rich area of focus for investors, and startups in this space can play an important role in helping the country achieve its goals. 

Electric vehicles startup GT Force’s Co-founder Rajesh Saitya believes that climate technologies implemented by startups not only help reduce GHG emissions but also help carry out processes in innovative ways. Modern tech mechanics strengthen the country’s initiatives to speed up and improve climate change action by enabling effective communication, are efficient and produce less waste, aid in efficient stock management and ordering systems, support eco marketing and promotion. “While climate technologies are only a part of the overall strategy for addressing climate change, but they can be powerful tools to help achieve our net zero goal by 2070,” asserts Saitya.

The PwC State of Climate Tech Report 2021 lists interesting trends in the space.

  • As an emerging asset class, Climate tech accounts for 14 cents of every venture capital dollar. 
  • The average deal size quadrupled in the first half of 2021 from one year prior, growing from US$27m to US$96m.  
  • Innovative finance remains core to climate tech’s growth. 
  • Mobility and Transport remains the most heavily invested challenge area, with electric vehicles (EVs) and low greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions vehicles as the focus. There has also been significant growth in Industry, Manufacturing and Resource Use. 
  • The US remains the most dominant geography raising US$56.6bn from second half of 2020 to first half of 2021, nearly 65 percent of all funding. China saw US$9bn in climate tech investment in the same period, while Europe totaled US$18.3B, driven by a nearly 500 percent increase in the mobility and transport challenge area compared to the prior 12-month period. 

Saurav Kumar, Founder and CEO, Euler Motors, an electric commercial vehicle manufacturing startup, believes that since EV emissions are far lower and their economic benefits much higher than ICEs, India should focus aggressively on EVs. He says: “EVs, once they garner the tipping point in India for segments like commercial and even passenger, will be climate change makers for the country. It is noteworthy that the shift has already begun, where people as a society are receptive to electrification.”

Kumar further adds that from a long-term standpoint, India needs powerful EVs as well as cleaner energy sources for battery and vehicle production, which will eventually make India carbon emission-free.

A recent report by Climate Dot and Climate Trends on climate finance for startups in India states that climate finance has been growing in India though it is primarily focused towards renewable energy and electric vehicles. And, most of this funding goes into established business models for renewable energy and not so much towards funding innovative ideas for startups. The reports do highlight that as the startup ecosystem matures, climate-focused startups will grow. It’s time investors and climate finance shift their attention to these startups from where the most innovative solutions to climate change issues may emerge and which might help achieve the net zero goals.

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