Incubators and Accelerators are Key Players in Cutting GHG Emissions

Author – Chris Carpenter


Concerning news came out from the UN Environment Programme Emissions Gap Report 2020. The report claims that currently the world is on track for 3.2°C of warming this century, well beyond the agreed 1.5-2ºC of warming determined necessary to avoid irreversible climate change in the Paris Agreement. Even with the down tick of emissions resulting from COVID-19, it won’t take long for us to get back to our business-as-usual levels.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports to avoid or maintain limited overshoot of 1.5°C of warming, global net CO2 emissions need to decline by about 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching net zero around 2050. 


That means, in order to reasonably meet our emissions targets, we need as many ideas as possible — from every background — and we need to start scaling them now. 


When looking at the mechanisms and systems in place that can begin addressing the climate crisis, accelerators and incubators are in a unique position. They have the ability to congregate innovations and funding at a rapid pace. Accelerators also can act as a bridge to harness the best traits of government and industry. Traditionally, the government sets policies and incentives to create space for the desired innovations and then industry supplies the technical skills, production, and jobs to create them. To speed commercialization, incubators and accelerators like For ClimateTech can better identify viable innovations for private and public investors, and provide the lab facilities, educational support, and mentoring that founders need to scale their solutions and businesses. This essentially helps to de-risk these investments, making the case for funding novel approaches.


We need every solution, most importantly, from every perspective


To properly identify where there are opportunities to improve efficiencies and make changes, we need as many ideas as possible, in every field and sector. You don’t have to be working for an advocacy group or climate tech company to work towards climate solutions. Jamie Alexander, Director of Drawdown Labs, said it best in her TEDxClimateActionTech talk: “No matter where we work, every job is a climate job now.” 

It’s hard enough to take the risk of turning an idea into a physical company or product prototype. But even after that first threshold, most startups never make it through the “valley of death” — the stage between initial funding and generating revenue from customers. It doesn’t necessarily mean their idea was bad, but it is more often caught up in a common pitfall like choosing the wrong manufacturer or funding model, or not having a clear enough business plan. Larger companies can recover from these roadblocks, but cash-strapped startups can’t bounce back as quickly or at all.

This is where For ClimateTech can step in and help emission-reducing ideas quickly get into the market. As an accelerator, For ClimateTech has the ability to get innovators through these common challenges, starting with supplying non-dilutive funding to innovators who are still at the idea phase — a stage that most private investors aren’t comfortable with. After helping them to validate their idea with potential customers and to form their business, we can then help them scale up their business to initiate and begin satisfying demand for their solution. This will strengthen our capacity to reduce greenhouse gases, while yielding returns for new investors and customers.

Government policy and legislation will be key in leveling the playing field for these climate tech solutions. Through funding and creating incentives for innovators, legislators can breathe life into new jobs, industries, and, most important, their communities. Especially as we all tackle ways to recover from COVID-19’s impact on our economy.

New York State’s aggressive legislation, which was set in place to fight carbon emissions, is a great example of this. It passed The Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act in 2019, committing NYS to cut Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions and transition to renewable energy. New York City also passed the The Climate Mobilization Act of 2019 that focuses on building efficiencies to reduce carbon emissions. Even local town and village governments have set automatic enrollment in community-choice aggregation for solar energy in the surrounding communities of Rochester, NY, that will ultimately make their communities healthier and more energy resilient, and lower their residents’ utility bills.


We need to build and scale quickly.


Moving quickly is the great ability of industry. Amazon only sold books in 1998. The iPhone wasn’t invented until 2007. Tesla’s first Roadster was released in 2008. As cliché as these examples are, these companies have completely shaped the current market, its direction, and our physical landscapes. The problem is that testing and piloting these innovative ideas is costly and comes with a lot of risk. For ClimateTech can help pilot these new ideas and have experienced mentors review their ideas so that it’s the best idea they are bringing to customers, not the pilot product.

Although speed is a major strength of private industry, there are legislative vehicles all levels of government can use as well to reduce GHG emissions. State of Emergency and Executive actions are the fastest moving style of legislating that can quickly advance funding and desired outcomes. PPE and the COVID-19 vaccines are the most recent examples of the government moving quickly to ramp up production to meet the demand and need of our societies. However, the downfall of executive legislation is its lack of permanence. It can cut both ways for each party. A lot of the former President Obama’s executive orders and actions were undone almost immediately at the beginning of Donald Trump’s presidential term. In addition, Trump was able to move funding through emergency action to build new border fencing along the US-Mexico border, a key part of his agenda that he couldn’t meaningfully get backing from the House and the Senate. The New York Times highlighted 104 environmental rollbacks of the Trump administration, showing the devastation a single presidential term can have when an elected official disregards climate science and responsibility. Currently, President Biden is using his first weeks in office to roll back these executive actions by former President Trump. Executive actions are still helpful, have real impacts, and deserve celebrating; however, we need permanent long-lasting solutions as well.


This has to be done together. 


While the business and tech world can be competitive and intimidating, the government is more divided and polarized than ever. That is why For ClimateTech’s most important role is to maintain and foster the community and larger picture of reducing GHG emissions. The ability to step back and see how pieces of the whole can better fit together and be mutually beneficial.

Although COVID-19 has made collaborating in person non-existent, there are no better groups to reinvent getting together than innovators. As an unpredicted benefit of quarantine, there are more virtual opportunities to get together, which opens up communities to individuals who are usually too far away to consider participating. For ClimateTech’s relationships and partnerships with government agencies, universities, utilities, manufacturers, founders, and investors will always be its strongest quality as we all work to get our world on track to a sustainable future.