The gauntlet has been thrown: To stay under the 1.5-degree level of global warming, we need to cut global emissions 23 billion tonnes of CO2-e emissions from the global economic system by 2030.
Climate tech, or technologies that are explicitly focused on reducing GHG emissions and addressing the impacts of global warming, are one of our most powerful levers to achieve this goal. We’ve analysed Giant Leap’s data to show it, and hope this data will inspire more climate-interested investors to enter the growing space with a target in mind.
One of Giant Leap’s impact tests to make an investment is that impact is embedded into the business model, meaning every dollar of revenue is linked to a unit of impact.
For the purposes of tackling the gorilla in the room, we’ve analysed our portfolio data after investing in climate tech businesses since 2016 and found that on average, our climate tech portfolio avoids 1kg of CO2-e emissions per $1 of revenue generated (methodology notes below).
We intend to use this as our minimum target for future climate tech investments that have a direct carbon impact.
We believe this benchmark is extremely achievable as several of our climate tech startups are already avoiding up to 10kg of carbon emissions per $1 of revenue and other companies have roadmaps to deepening their climate impact as they grow.
The implications of achieving this direct impact are substantial. We see the potential for these companies to reach $100m in revenue, which would mean 100,000 tonnes of CO2-e emissions avoided per company per year, equivalent to 22,000 cars off the road or 1.7 million trees planted (source: EPA).
And we’re just one fund - there was $40b of new climate tech focussed capital raised in just the last year. This backs up Blackrock CEO, Larry Fink’s, prediction that the next 1,000 unicorns - companies reaching billion dollar valuations - will be climate innovators. If this comes to fruition, this translates to 100 million tonnes of CO2-e cut from global emissions every year, or 22 million cars off the road and 1.7 billion trees planted (source: EPA).
The direct CO2-e avoidance is of high value in the scheme of addressing climate change because, unlike carbon offsets, these companies are stopping the emission from ever occurring. Take the example of Goterra, which manages organic waste sustainably with automated insect farms. When it captures market share, it takes away from waste companies that are paid to put that waste into landfill where it emits methane and CO2, avoiding those emissions before they ever happen.
While the direct impact here is important, it only tells part of the story. Climate tech investments bring innovations to market that often have indirect system-wide impacts that dramatically amplify their emissions reduction potential.
For example, Amber Electric is an energy retailer that shifts energy consumption to renewable power by providing access to the wholesale price. In addition to directly shifting consumption to renewables, this also creates a strong incentive for consumers to adopt renewable rooftop solar and battery systems where they can profit from storing and selling power when prices are high. Further, by levelling out the wholesale price at times when renewables are generating, they increase revenue going to large scale renewable infrastructure and make investment into the space more attractive.
Take Change Foods as another example, who will produce animal-free cheese in a manufacturing environment, using 5x less energy, 10x less water, and 100x less land. This massively reduces pressure on global land reserves so they might be used for regenerative farming or nature-based carbon projects.
None of this is captured in their direct impact and is incredibly difficult to measure, but it could be a multiplier of 2x, 20x, 200x, or more in some cases.
The IPCC has forecast that if we can scale solutions that curb emissions in key areas like energy, food, waste, and transport, we could limit emissions by 40-70% by 2050.
Startups are the fastest path to commercialise and scale new climate solutions, which we believe can bring this forecast forward with the right applications of capital and talent.
Taking our baseline carbon revenue multiple and 1000 new climate tech unicorns with a multiplier effect of 20x by 2030, this could represent almost 10% of the 23 billion tonne target to avoid 1.5 degrees of warming alone (to put this into perspective, this is roughly the same impact as the entire pledges of the COP26 climate summit). But with an increase in carbon revenue multiple ambitions powered by government and corporate support to fund risky (but highly impactful) R&D, the gorilla is in sight.
There is an ocean of opportunity in climate tech and we encourage every climate-interested investor to get involved, targeting investments with high carbon revenue multiples with an aim to help them achieve the system-wide impact they can unlock.
Small Steps Vol. 57: Interactive maps of future climate scenarios 🗺️; impact insights from gamers 🎮; and fiction creating reality 📺
Giant Leap's impact thesis for Who Gives A Crap, the sustainable toilet paper company that builds toilets.