New industries besides sustainable products
If we are to achieve the 1.5 degree target set out in the Paris Agreement, we are rapidly approaching the point where reducing emissions alone will not be enough. We will also need to actively reverse the effects of past environmental sins. That means sequestering not just a significant proportion of past emissions, but also emissions set to be produced in future, even with more sustainable technologies. This will create colossal new industries. Action needs to be taken in a number of areas, including, but not limited to:
- Sequestration of CO2 (and other greenhouse gases, such as methane) from the atmosphere
- Water purification to remove antibiotics, hormones and microplastics
- Soil decontamination
- Halting, then reversing the decline in biodiversity
This needs new technologies, new providers and new business models – and represents a colossal market for start-ups and innovators. There are already plenty of examples. Climeworks (Switzerland), Carboculture (Finland) and Carbo Engineering (Canada) are extracting CO2 from the air; The Ocean Cleanup is aiming to clean up the seas; Orbital Systems (Sweden) offers a water recycling system; Biomede (France) uses special seed mixtures to remove copper and heavy metals from the soil (phytoremediation); Remsoil (Finland) has created an additive to accelerate the natural breakdown of pollutants such as oils and PAHs.
The most important task, and the biggest challenge for governments, businesses and consumers, involves reshaping entire systems to make them sustainable, and therefore fit for the future. In the case of energy, this transformation is already underway. Our transport and food supply systems are still on the starting blocks. The waste management industry needs to become a recycling industry – waste, after all, is just resources in the wrong place.
No government and no company can tackle this alone. It requires a collaborative approach. And that means, in the drive towards a circular economy, that in addition to ‘make’ and ‘buy’, managers increasingly need to be considering the third option – ‘ally’.