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Opinion

The Energy Gang podcast: Can aviation be made sustainable?

Exploring electric planes, booming cleantech investment and the hit Netflix film Don't Look Up

1 minute read

It’s the first Energy Gang of the year. To kick off 2022 with a bang, Ed Crooks is joined by Emily Chasan of Generate Capital and Amy Harder, formerly of the Wall Street Journal, who joins the gang for the first time from Breakthrough Energy, the net-zero initiative founded by Bill Gates.

With air travel over the holiday season bouncing back – despite the Omicron variant – what are the best prospects for taking the emissions out of aviation? In the US, in mid-December, more than two million people per day were passing through the TSA’s checkpoints. That is still significantly below pre-pandemic levels, but it is roughly double the numbers in the same period of 2020. Even with the pandemic still raging, people want to fly. That is a real problem for getting to net zero. Aviation emissions are small, accounting for a little under 2% of total global greenhouse gas emissions, but their share is rising. Sustainable aviation fuel and electric planes, are they a viable solution yet?

Also, VC and private equity investment into clean tech is booming. About 60 billion dollars was invested in by venture capital and private equity into climate tech in the first half of 2021, according to a recent survey from professional services firm PwC. That’s almost triple the 28 billion that was invested in the first half of 2020. About 14% of all VC financing is now going to climate tech. Is investment going to the right technologies?

And finally, one of the ideas that is being developed to make sure capital flows into the right activities is the EU’s Green Taxonomy. It’s a list of environmentally sustainable economic activities to give companies, investors and policymakers definitions for which economic activities can be treated as environmentally sustainable, and which can’t. The gang examine the plans; is it a sensible strategy? Is the EU setting a path others might follow?

There has been a huge amount of discussion in the past couple of weeks about the Netflix film Don’t Look Up: a rare example of Hollywood giving a big-budget big-star treatment to a movie about climate change. It deserves some scrutiny, so to wrap up the show Ed, Emily and Amy give their opinions on the film and argue its effectiveness at raising awareness for climate change.

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