Decarbonizing green technologies can reconcile economic progress with safeguarding the resources of the planet. According to the World Economic Forum, Green Tech is the technology and science-based solutions that mitigate the negative human impact on the environment in a broad range of fields from agriculture to construction.
According to Philip Meissner, Director of the European Center for Digital Competitiveness, 31% of global emissions are caused by by construction and production, 27% by energy production, 16% by transportation, 19% by agriculture, and the remaining 7% caused by heating. Green technologies can be applied in all of these CO2-emitting sectors, thus offering broad solutions for sustainable growth. New green tech, from vertical farming to 3D printing and plant-based meat, can reduce the environmental footprint while enabling sustainable growth.
In the field of agriculture, vertical farming can revolutionize how vegetables are produced. Berlin-based Infarm uses 99% less space, 75% less fertilizer and 95% less water than conventional farming. Protein can also be produced in a much better way: The Swiss start-up Planted produces plant-based meat alternatives with 74% less CO2 emissions. Plant-based meat could free up the 80% of agricultural land worldwide used for livestock, which currently only produces 20% of calories.
Another innovation less often seen as a green technology is 3D printing. Its potential becomes clear when looking at Relativity Space, a company that can 3D print entire rockets as well as their engines using a hundred times fewer parts than a typical rocket.
This translates to fewer parts that need to be shipped to production sites for final assembly, and the potential to ultimately move from a centralized to a decentralized production infrastructure that can reduce both the CO2 emitted in factories as well as in supply chains.
There are some clear examples of what 3D printing can do. 52 homes are being built in Kilifi, Kenya. The walls can be printed in 12 hours. The homes’ sustainable design will save residents 42% on energy bills, and cut water use by 24% compared with living in a conventionally built house. Prices start at USD 21,300 for a 1-bedroom house.
The homes are being built by 14Trees, a joint venture between building materials company Holcim and impact investor CDC Group. 14 trees is the number of trees saved per home by not firing bricks. The development has been certified as sustainable by IFC-Edge, a World Bank initiative that recognizes excellence in green building design. 14Trees has already built the world’s first 3D-printed school in Malawi. Like many countries, Kenya suffers from a lack of affordable housing. Just 2% of all new housing in the country is aimed at lower-income families. 14Trees says 3D printing can save up to 20% on construction costs.
In addition, green tech changes the way energy can be produced and stored. Among the most innovative companies in the field are Energy Vault, which uses gravitational energy to efficiently store renewable power, and Heliogen, which produces green hydrogen entirely from solar power.
These solutions reconcile technological advances with the production limits of the planet. They enable sustainable progress. Green tech could become a significant contributor to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Blackrock’s CEO Larry Fink, has stated that he believes the next 1,000 unicorns will be green energy companies. Bill Gates believes that the sector will produce eight to 10 Teslas, a Google, an Amazon and a Microsoft. According to consulting firm PWC, these prospects have inspired rising investments into green tech with an annual growth of 210%.