What are the key COP26 takeaways for climate tech scaleups?

Julie Martin, November 24, 2021 6 min read

Though climate tech companies were largely left out of the Blue Zone and the decision-making table at COP26, many of the discussions and outcomes will still affect tech scaleups and their sectors. We’ve gathered some of the big announcements to keep in mind and a wrap-up of our own activities during the two weeks.

The Breakthrough Agenda announced!

More than 40 countries have joined the Breakthrough Agenda to help scale climate tech solutions.  Ultimately, the aim is to make climate tech solutions readily available by 2030, across all key sectors and across the world. Efforts will primarily focus on clean energy, zero-emission transport, green steel, hydrogen, and sustainable agriculture. The main goals of the Breakthrough Agenda include:

  • Accelerating the development and deployment of climate tech 
  • Ensuring climate tech solutions become more affordable and accessible than fossil-fuelled solutions 
  • Fostering public-private collaboration 
  • Mobilising finance in the climate tech ecosystem

450 Financial Firms Join Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero

Mark Carney, former Governor of the Bank of England and current UN Special Envoy on Climate Action and Finance, will be chairing the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ), which now comprises over 450 financial firms across 45 countries, with over $130 trillion financial assets (around 40% of total global assets). Goals of GFANZ include:

  • Bringing together financial firms using science-based guidelines to reach net zero by 2050 
  • Aligning portfolios with global net zero goals
  • Mobilising private capital
  • Advocating for policy that fosters innovation and investment
  • Supporting innovation across sectors

Declaration on Accelerating the Transition to 100% Zero-Emission Cars and Vans 

A group of national and local governments, vehicle manufacturers, businesses, financial institutions, and investors have joined the Declaration around these common goals:

  • All new car and van sales being zero-emissions by 2040 at the very latest
  • Developed countries helping developing countries accelerate the adoption of zero-emission vehicles 
  • Making zero-emission vehicles affordable and accessible to all

International Aviation Climate Ambition Coalition 

23 states have joined the Coalition and have committed to:

  • Working alongside the aviation industry to accelerate its greenhouse gas emissions reduction
  • Supporting the implementation and transparency of the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA)
  • Supporting the development and adoption of Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAFs)
  • Supporting the development of new net-zero climate technologies in the aviation industry 

AIM for Climate 

The Agriculture Innovation Mission (AIM) for Climate, co-led by the US and the UAE, aims to support the development of net zero agritech solutions by:

  • Increasing investment in the sector by 2025
  • Supporting Research & Development

Tech Nation at COP26

Calling for regulatory improvements at Forget 2050 with Net Zero Now

It was great to see so many different people in the room at our event at the Drygate Brewery with Net Zero Now – including some big names in the hospitality sector like Coca-Cola and Pernod Ricard, some of our very own climate tech scale-ups, Mark Maslin, the author of How to Save our Planet, Matt Winning, a hilarious climate comedian, and even local Scottish musicians. 

For our panel, The Future of Climate Tech, we were joined by three of our own Net Zero 2.0 climate tech founders – Jo Parker-Swift from Solivus, Phill Davies from Magway, and Duncan Oswald, head of climate science at Spherics.

One of the things we found interesting was the differences and similarities between all three and their approaches to climate tech; Duncan comes from a climate science background while Jo and Phill don’t, Spherics is a software company while the other two also have hardware. Above all else, it was inspiring to see that despite their differing backgrounds, they all had one common goal: fighting the climate crisis and disrupting key polluting industries. 

While all three companies face similar scaling challenges, the hardware companies – which are more R&D-intensive – highlighted some unique blockers:

  • Phill from Magway recalled what Al Gore said at The New York Times’ Climate Hub – that delay has replaced denial as the biggest threat to our environment. Phill also highlighted that to get to net zero as soon as possible, they look for passion and ambition. 
  • Jo from Solivus noted that funding has been her biggest challenge, as the risks tied to climate tech hardware solutions are much higher for investors, but that the UK Government’s EIS scheme helped her grow her business. She also mentioned the difficulty of scaling hardware without readily-available mentors who have done the same and can support them to overcome hardware-specific challenges. 

There was consensus from all three innovators: governments must improve regulatory frameworks. Regulations on infrastructure, for example, are outdated and haven’t kept up with the technology that now exists. Without revised regulation on the built environment, Solivus, for instance, can’t use their solar panel technology effectively and create maximal impact. Another necessary improvement that was emphasised is the need for government to standardise the journey to net zero to increase transparency and limit greenwashing.   

If government effectively tackles these problems in the next few years, Spherics’ carbon calculation software will be so cheap and easy for businesses to use that everyone will use it, each and every one of us will have the option to use Magway’s zero-emission underground delivery system for our online purchases, and Solivus’ solar technology will save 1 million tonnes of Co2 emissions from commercial buildings over their lifetime. 

The other panels were very insightful as well, covering topics such as the importance of SMEs in decarbonisation and the role big business can play in supporting them, and exploring the relevance of COP finance discussions for SMEs. Tune in to re-watch all of these panels here

Emphasising collaboration at Scaling Climate Tech with BNP Paribas and Arctic Basecamp

It was amazing to hold our Scaling Climate Tech event in one of Arctic Basecamp’s actual arctic tents. Right beside the tent, the Arctic Basecamp team had brought a block of ice back from Greenland to visually highlight the melting of the Arctic ice caps.

BNP Paribas has partnered with Tech Nation on both Net Zero 1.0 and 2.0 programmes. Sarisher Mann from BNPP explained that “the transition of the real economy requires real collaboration with actors who are completely outside of the finance industry,” which is why the bank finds it so crucial to support our scale-ups and play an intermediary role between them and their portfolio corporations. 

Our Net Zero 2.0 founder panellists, Andrew Woods from CATAGEN and Genevieve Patenaude from Earth Blox, agreed on the importance of partnering up with the right corporations to roll-out their climate tech solutions. They also emphasised the need for the government to define some clear standards for businesses’ path to net zero. 

Hervé Duteil, chief sustainability officer for BNP Paribas Americas, brought us his insight on the role of the financial sector in global decarbonisation. Before COP21 in 2015, financial institutions rarely spoke of sustainability – but then they made two discoveries:

  • Issuing green bonds has led the finance sector to bring about some of the positive innovations we see today, by creating “virtuous competition that is slowly driving the entire sector to do better and be more transparent.” 
  • Financial institutions can now tie interest rates to future sustainability performance, meaning that they are benchmarking interest rates to companies’ ability to do good in the world – highlighting the importance of widely-available, processable climate data. In fact, according to Hervé, “data has been the driver of the sustainable finance revolution.”

You can re-watch our event here

Exploring the role for tech at the Decarbonisation Summit with Green TV

At our Science, Innovation and Technology panel for the Decarbonisation Summit, our chief executive Gerard Grech and Net Zero 2.0 company Magway’s Huw Thomas talked about the difficulties faced in measuring and reducing our own internal carbon footprints. 

With Magway being both a software and hardware technology, they’ve actively ensured that hardware-testing can be done remotely to limit travelling, for example. The underground pipes they use for their delivery system are currently made out of oil product, so they’ve also been working with the National Composite Center to discuss alternatives such as plant-based materials and ensure the solution they deliver truly is carbon-neutral.  

Net Zero 2.0 company Sourceful’s goal is precisely to target these types of challenges with supply chains – “supply chains are broken, as they’re not efficient and they’re not resilient.” Making sure that we improve supply chains and get access to better materials is key to making them more attractive to big corporations and making their net-zero journey easier. 

Overall, all panellists agreed on the massive role that technology will play in reaching global net zero and accelerating behaviour change. 

However, Wing and Huw both also underlined the necessary societal changes we have started to see and which have gained momentum since COP21 – people are understanding the impact they have on the world through their daily choices, and as employees, they are becoming more and more engaged in decarbonising their workplace. 

The youth is particularly interested in companies that contribute to fighting the climate crisis: Magway was able to crowdfund from investors across 60 countries, a majority of these investors between the ages of 18-34 years old, and Sourceful has been hiring young graduates eager to start their career in climate tech rather than traditional big-money corporations. 

Net Zero 1.0, Net Zero 2.0, Tech Zero