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December 13, 2019

Smart Climate Investments

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On the 10th of December 2019, as part of the COP25, the European Investment Bank (EIB) was part of a discussion about the energy transition. The question is now not whether, but how to make it happen and while there is no simple answer, one thing is needed: human capital and financial capital targeted at making an impact.

Climate change adaptation

With extreme weather events becoming regular occurrences, the world is investing more money than ever in climate change mitigation and adaptation.

An important part of the money being invested is directed to the building of dykes or flood warning systems. After all, there are currently more than 110 million people living in vulnerable coastlines according to a recent report by non-profit Climate Central.

The prevailing thought for many investments is to maximise the impact of every euro invested. This translates into a tendency to hone in on large population centres of coastal peripheries. Protecting these areas from the worst floods will save the lives of millions of people by 2100.

The necessity and benefits of such investments are clear cut, yet when it comes to mitigation or making investments into the technologies of tomorrow, the lines remain blurry.

Climate change mitigation

When thinking of climate change mitigation, especially related to investments, the focus on the impact of every euro is sometimes watered down by overlooking complementary technologies and financial or societal consequences.

This is also the case for electric vehicles. While in theory, they are ‘a great green solution’ there are a number of improvements available to substantially improve this solution.

The small scale on which EV’s have been implemented until now, tends to mask some of the disruptions they could cause on a larger scale. The necessity to apply the principles of circular business models for long-lasting battery reuse - recycling to optimise the use of natural resources - is one area. Increased power demand for the electricity grid and the way that can be cost-effectively mitigated is another aspect on which they can be improved.

Developing renewable energy sources more intensively, both at a central and decentral level is a third possible improvement.

What is necessary for investments in general but particularly for mobility is the broader consideration of the impact of said investments as a whole.

Climate change mitigation in all our choices

More and more, ‘green’ investment opportunities are offered by banks, with a clear trend focused on creating ‘sustainable development’ opportunities. Yet, these opportunities have - to a large extent - been absent in the world of mobility.

A case can be made to focus on Life Cycle Emissions (resource mining, make, use and end-of-life) that products emit in relation to their investments, whether it be for toothbrushes or electric vehicles. A product can be cheap (i.e. emit little while being produced) but may have huge energy consumption and related emissions while being used.

This mindset for emissions reduction led to the ‘eco design’ regulation for household appliances in the EU in 2019. This new set of rules will, by setting a cap on the energy consumption, result in energy savings equivalent to Denmark's annual consumption and save 46 million tons of CO2 equivalent per year!

This push for efficiency is not only found in regulation, it also exists within frontrunner companies, which Lightyear is set to be part of, and which change the way they do things and strive for a positive impact, minimising emissions and resource use. And there are numerous examples where a lower environmental impact and cost reduction reinforce each other.

Pioneering technologies that reduce our impact through holistic design and are part of a thriving business ecosystem should be brought at the centre stage of the conversation. They are an integral part of the solution for tackling the issue of our time: climate change.

Innovations that have no hidden costs

The key to climate change mitigation as a society has never been clearer: it is about choosing the right technologies to power our societies and choosing the right way to implement them. We can no longer kick the ‘emissions can’ down the road, we should instead focus on innovations with full transparency on all the impacts.

This means making choices and investments in technologies designed to have a positive impact. These decisions need to be based on energy consumption, reduced emissions and extended life cycles rather than purchasing price or ‘coolness’. If the world, and the different investment bodies apply these principles then we will surely come out light years ahead of where we currently are.

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