27 Low-Carbon Business Stories From 2016’s First Half

One start-up company made headlines with... pigeons. Photo: Plume Labs
One start-up company made headlines with... pigeons. Photo: Plume Labs

We’re already halfway through 2016, and the historic Paris climate summit was over six months ago. Time to take a look at what has happened!

We’ve put together a small selection of the business-related climate change stories that made headlines in the first half of 2016. Also check out our State of the Planet for a week-by-week overview of key climate change stories.

1. Adidas is creating sneakers out recycles plastic from ocean plastic.

The limited edition shoes are made from plastic collected in coastal areas in the Maldives, the Daily Planet reports.

2. Apple decided to make recycling cool again – and delivered, with a robot.

Recycling an Apple product should be as easy as using one says the company’s vice president for environment, Lisa Jackson. Not “iRecycle” but “Renew” is the catchy name of Apple’s new recycling programme. You can go to the Apple website and find out how to “renew” your old phone. Jackson also unveiled a new “super secret” iPhone disassembly robot named “Liam.” Mashable reports that Liam – who has 29 arms – can take apart over 1.2 million phones per year and removes and separates precious natural resources such as cobalt and lithium.

3. Investors are aware of climate change risks, but are still slow to act.

Investors are still slow to act on climate change, even though they are “more aware of risks to their portfolios,” senior executives have told Reuters, which reports the executives tend to focus more on the short term and are unclear about the costs. Last year, a Climate-KIC study already revealed most European business leaders are aware of climate change and have prepared strategies to respond to to it, but with a lack of focus on innovation – making their strategies ineffective.

4. The hunt for the “Googles of clean-tech” is on.

Last year was the second year in a row that the booming renewables sector could count on more venture capital and private equity investment. “This is the beginning of decades of growth in clean-tech venture capital and private equity (…) We will see many global giants arise – the Googles of clean-tech,” Murray McCaig, managing partner at Toronto-based ArcTern Ventures – and 2015 Climate-KIC venture competition judge – told the Daily Planet.

5. Hundreds of thousands of people put down a deposit for a technology solution to climate change, shattering expectations.

Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk tweeted: “Definitely going to need to rethink production planning…” Climate change was front and centre at the presentation of his company’s new electric car Model 3 in California, which will sell for ‘only’ $35.000 in the US and is available around the world. Musk kicked off with:  “(…) the last time there was this carbon concentration was 11 million years ago, that was approximately when primates starting walking upright (…) the world was very different, we don’t want to return to that situation!”

6. Why not explain clean-tech entrepreneurship with cats?

Daily Planet reporter Molly Redmond thought the same thing, don’t miss the result!

7. More than 100 major companies said they want to help implement the Paris Agreement.

IKEA, Mars, Philips, Salesforce, Unilever, Adidas, HP, Starbucks and many others say they will do their bit to make the Paris Agreement a success, the Daily Planet reports. The 110 companies are also calling on world leaders to provide “clarity” to boost the “confidence of investors worldwide.” The businesses released their joint statement just two days before the ceremonial signing of the Paris Agreement in New York.

8. Apple also announced it is operating at 93 per cent renewable electricity, worldwide.

At the same event where Liam-the-robot was announced, it was revealed that Apple’s goal of 100 per cent renewable electricity is very close, CleanTechnica reports.

9. A very special Pigeon Air Patrol dominated the skies over London.

Start-up company Plume made headlines around the world with a very special way to measure air quality over London. The French entrepreneurs behind Plume strapped small backpacks with sensors to a flock of pigeons, and sent them across the city to gather air pollution data, CNN, the Guardian, Huffington Post and many others reported. Plume is supported by Climate-KIC.

10. A major US supermarket chain is moving into solar energy.

The NASDAQ listed Whole Foods Market is going to install solar panels on nearly 200 stores, instantly propelling it into the top 25 solar companies in the USA.

11. London might soon have a low-carbon business district.

The area will “accelerate the development of the next generation of smart businesses that achieve success whilst minimising waste, energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions,” so said Richard Templer, director of Innovation at the Grantham Institute. The first step in creating the district would be the launch of a global cleantech exhibition and festival in 2018, according to Imperial College’s website. Imperial College and the Grantham Institute are Climate-KIC partners.

12. Some of the visitors to the 2018 global cleantech exhibition in London will likely be flying on biofuel.

United Airlines was the first US airline to introduce biofuel in its passenger jets. The company has started with flights between Los Angeles and San Francisco and has plans to expand further, the Washington Post reports. KLM, a Climate-KIC partner, has already experimented with transatlantic biofuel flights.

13. JPMorgan Chase & Co became the latest big bank to pull out from coal.

Bloomberg reported that the bank will no longer finance new coal mines and will end support for new coal-fired power plants being developed in rich countries.

14. National Geographic published an infographic of “old-school” companies that are turning to renewables.

It includes a mix of old and new economy companies ranging from Ikea to Google.

15. Clean-tech start-ups have a better chance of success in Europe than in the US.

So claimed former director of US innovation agency DARPA Ken Gabriel, according to Deutsche Welle. “There are fewer barriers [in Europe]. European culture is much more focused on green living and the environment. This is where you’re going to get the market,” he said.

16. Tesla ramped up production and said it plans to build half a million cars a year by 2018.

The company is stepping up production plans and would arrive at a 500.000 a year production level for its new mass-market model two years ahead of schedule, Reuters reports.

17. Chinese companies hope to disrupt the emerging electrical car market.

“Our goal is to build a high-end, high-performance electric car for half the price of a Tesla car,” said Li Bin, co-founder and chairman of NextEV according to the Wall Street Journal.

18. The millionth set of solar panels in the United States was installed.

Industry leaders expect the number of solar-powered systems to double within two years, Huffington Post reports.

19. Banks that ignore climate risk face a credit downgrade says S&P.

Financial institutions should prepare for “multilayered and significant impacts” of climate change, analysts at S&P have warned according to Climate Home.

20. Tesla produces 2000 cars a week, which means it is on course to meet its goals.

With 373,000 reservations under the belt for its new mass market electric car – and more than one year to go until production starts – Tesla has to ramp up its production, and AutoEvolution reports it is on track to produce 500,000 cars a year by 2017.

Germany’s Daimler, meanwhile, already seems to be behind the curve saying it expects to only sell 100,000 electric cars by 2020.

Another US based electric vehicle start-up focused on transport, Nikola Motor, says it has received 7000 reservations for its electric truck, Transport Topics reports.

21. A top investor says he expects Tesla to become a $700 billion giant in the next ten to twenty years.

Billionaire investor Ron Baron has predicted that Tesla Motors will become one of the biggest companies in the world over the next decade or two, Bloomberg reports. “This could be one of the largest companies in the U.S.—in the whole world,” Baron said.

Baron’s firm has amassed a stake in the electric-car company worth about $325 million, or 1 per cent of its total market value.

22. A six-year-old from the United States may be one of the youngest climate change entrepreneurs ever.

The pint-sized environmentalist, named Henry Marr, caught our attention when his mother uploaded a video to Facebook which has amassed over 17.5 million views to date, the Daily Planet reports.

Henry, with help from his mum, has set up a Facebook page Henry the Emotional Environmentalist and is writing a book to help raise awareness of environmental issues. In an interview he (perhaps with a little bit of help from his mum) also demonstrated a sound entrepreneurial instinct, showing off his illustrated book ‘Enjoy The Planet But Don’t Wreck It’.

23. Is Apple about to enter the electric car market? Tesla thinks so.

Tesla Motors chief Elon Musk has said he considers Apple an eventual direct competitor, with electric vehicles that could go into production as soon as 2020. Apple will “probably make a good car and be successful,” Musk said according to Market Watch.

Volkswagen, meanwhile, said it could be building a €10 billion battery factory in a bid to reposition itself in the electric car industry, Tech Times reported.

24. Could delicious ice-cream flavoured beer help beat climate change?

Great news! You could be warming up with an ice-cream flavoured beer this winter while taking climate action at the same time, the Daily Planet reports.

25. The world’s business sector said it is ready to over-deliver on the Paris Agreement.

Could the age old business credo “under promise, over deliver” also apply to the commitments made on climate change in Paris last year? A new report says that if governments make work of implementing the Paris Agreement, businesses can deliver emissions cuts far beyond what was agreed at the 2015 summit according to the Daily Planet.

Under current plans, the business sector is set to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 3.7 billion tons of carbon per year by 2030. But the report – supported by organisations and corporations ranging from IKEA to Ceres – says the contribution of the business sector to climate action could be as high as 10 billion tons of carbon per year.

26. Nissan and Renault have now built a total of 340,000 electric cars.

Partners Nissan and Renault have reached yet another electric car milestone. The Japanese and French carmakers have together built 340,000 electric cars since the launch of the Nissan Leaf in December 2010, according to Green Car Reports.

27. Al Gore said climate action is the biggest new business opportunity ever.

In his speech at the TED 2016 conference in Vancouver, Gore highlighted how an “explosion of new investment” is boosting the uptake of new technologies, and how climate change is the “biggest new business opportunity in the history of the world,” the Daily Planet reports.

Interested in more climate change headlines? Check out our State of the Planet and sign up for our weekly newsletter.

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