Climatetech is here, and it’s going to transform our future. At our first-ever Climatetech Summit this November, we brought together a range of climate champions to build a coalition for climate action, and dig into the capital, legislation, resources, and equity work we must invest to help this wave of technology reach its full potential.
Throughout the summit, this coalition engaged across what we see as the pillars of climate action: technology, finance, policy, and justice. Here are key takeaways from the two-day event:
Climate action will save our planet—and do so much more.
In her keynote speech, Natural Resources Defense Council CEO Gina McCarthy said climate action will create a “healthier, more prosperous, and more equitable future for everyone.” She emphasized that the climate revolution can rebuild the middle class, create millions of jobs, and address racial injustice.
- “This country is ready for a new revolution, and it’s one that’s going to drive us from the grasp of fossil fuels and lead us toward a clean energy future,” she said.
Governments need climatetech solutions in order to reach their carbon-reduction goals.
Kathleen A. Theoharides, secretary of Massachusetts’ Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, described a symbiotic relationship between government and climatetech, where the government can position regulations, standards, and incentives to foster a healthy innovation ecosystem and climatetech can offer the public sector a pathway to decarbonization—and more.
- “We need new solutions, so supporting cleantech is not only helping us get to our 2050 target, but it’s really the key to unlocking a whole host of solutions,” Theoharides said.
It’s crucial to have a diverse, equitable, and inclusive energy transition that brings everyone into the fold.
Speakers from the climate justice panel emphasized the importance of job trainings for communities that are underrepresented in climatetech; making sure that Black, Brown, and Indigenous people have a voice in decisions that impact their neighborhoods; and addressing social justice and economic justice as part of the approach to building climate justice.
- “If we really want a massive uprising of the human race to save ourselves, we need to do it in a way that has people clambering to join us,” said Reverend Mariama White-Hammond, founding pastor of New Roots AME Church.
Climate is embedding itself within the finance world.
During the climate finance discussion, panelists noted a shift in the field: ESG finance is becoming less distinct from other forms, climate data is impacting public opinion, and public and private markets are becoming more comfortable with a range of sustainable solutions.
- “Large portfolio owners are starting to say we can’t wait,” said Chris Berry, global head of ESG Product at State Street, in reference to taking climate impact into account. “We can’t push it off until next year.”
Voting really, really matters.
Speakers on the climate policy panel identified voting as the most significant “point of policymaker leverage,” while also emphasizing the importance of citizens engaging their elected officials in ongoing dialogues on climate legislation and of leaders seeking out input from everyone they’re serving—especially the Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities who have long been left out the conversation.
- “The opportunities to make important climate policy at the state and local level are enormous,” said Nathaniel Stinnett, founder and executive director of the Environmental Voter Project. “Building code tweaks and parking regulations and traffic laws can really change everything.”
Systemic racism and addressing climate change are deeply intertwined.
Communities of color disproportionately bear the brunt of traditional energy sources, and Stinnett posited that if white neighborhoods experienced the same impacts we would have abandoned these sources long ago. As we decarbonize the economy, we also have the opportunity—and the moral mandate—to address the systemic racism that went along with it.
- “I was the first person in my family to ever be diagnosed with asthma,” shared Jessica Loya, environmental DEJI (diversity, equity, justice, + inclusion) policy and campaigns strategist at GreenLatinos. “This was not a hereditary disease—I lived four houses away from a major interstate change in Los Angeles. The amount of traffic that goes through that highway impacted the air that I was breathing, the air that my siblings were breathing, the air that my nieces breathe today.”
Municipalities play an important role in combating climate change.
Climate action is necessary—and impactful—throughout the public sector, not just at the federal level. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Somerville Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone joined the Climatetech Summit for a fireside chat on how municipalities can help drive progress on climate change.
- “We want to be as creative and aggressive as we can in this effort, because we recognize we’re running out of time—and we have a moral imperative to include those from the most vulnerable areas of our community in the development process,” Turner said.
Early-stage investors are increasingly measuring diversity—both within their own teams and within their portfolio companies.
As the climatetech industry faces its lack of diversity and inclusion, investors are looking closely at startups’ teams, according to the speakers on the Investor Roundtable.
- “There are three areas: there’s us, there’s the founders that we decide to invest in, and there’s their teams—who they decide to hire,” said Emily Kirsch, founder and CEO at Powerhouse and managing partner of Powerhouse Ventures.
Investing in climate solutions makes economic sense.
The dualistic conception of climatetech being at odds with financial gain has been debunked as investors get more familiar with this new generation of technology.
- “There’s a real opportunity here to make a difference and make a market return at the same time,” said Charlie Lord, principal and co-founder of Renew Energy Partners.
To drive climate progress, collaboration throughout the ecosystem is crucial.
At Greentown, we’ve seen firsthand the meaningful outcomes of relationships between startups and corporates, inventors and manufacturers, entrepreneurs and fellow entrepreneurs. By working together, startups, investors, corporate leaders, policymakers, and others can drive meaningful climate progress.
- “Partnerships are absolutely key to driving transformational change,” said Marc Engel, chief supply chain officer at Unilever. Engel spoke about Unilever’s work with Greentown alum PurposeEnergy to turn waste into energy at Ben & Jerry’s factory in St. Albans, VT, and about Unilever’s partnership with Greentown member Via Separations to significantly reduce the energy needed to manufacture Dove soap bars.