35 innovators under 35: climate change

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Clean energy technologies in the electricity, transportation, industrial and construction sectors will drive this change, as the use of fossil fuels in these areas accounts for three quarters of global greenhouse gas emissions. We also need technologies to reduce emissions from agriculture and deforestation, and to remove and store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. However, most of these technologies come with what Bill Gates calls a high ‘green premium’: a measure of the cost difference between a clean option and a carbon-intensive option. In other words, clean energy technologies often cost more to run.

A 2021 study by Vivid Economics suggests that in a scenario with limited public and private funding for research, development and commercialization of new technologies, the green premium for several critical technologies would remain too high by the end of this decade. In contrast, by accelerating innovation during this period, we could reduce the annual cost of transitioning to $2.5 trillion per year net-zero emissions by 2050. And a cheaper transition is tastier for countries around the world.

So how do you accelerate innovation? One way is by promising future customer demand. This gives innovators and investors an incentive to scale up unproven technologies and find ways to cut costs quickly. The First Movers CoalitionLaunched by President Joe Biden and John Kerry, the US Special Presidential Envoy on Climate (and my boss), along with the World Economic Forum, includes more than 50 of the world’s largest companies, all of which have made commitments to help emerging climate technologies. to be purchased by 2030. These include clean fuels to decarbonise shipping and aviation, carbon-free steel and aluminum, zero-emission trucks, and advanced technologies to suck carbon from the atmosphere.

This essay is part of MIT Technology Review’s 2022 Innovators Under 35 package, which recognizes the most promising young people working in technology today. Check out the full list here or check out the winners in this category below.