UN scientists call for course correction

A local reacts to watching a wildfire advancing in Orjais, Covilha council in central Portugal, on August 16, 2022.

Patricia De Melo Moreira | Afp | Getty Images

A landmark U.N. report published Monday urged governments across the globe to embark on an urgent course correction to tackle the climate emergency, warning current plans were insufficient to prevent the worst of what the crisis has in store.

The U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said the unprecedented challenge of keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels had become even greater in recent years due to the relentless increase in global greenhouse gas emissions.

This has resulted in more frequent and more intense extreme weather events that have caused increasingly dangerous impacts on nature and people in every region of the world, the report said.

Deep, rapid and sustained greenhouse gas emission reductions across all sectors will be necessary if warming is to be limited by 1.5 degrees Celsius, the report says, noting that global emissions should already be decreasing and will need to be slashed almost in half by 2030.

The 1.5 degrees Celsius temperature threshold is widely recognized as crucial because so-called tipping points become more likely beyond this level. Tipping points are thresholds at which small changes can lead to dramatic shifts in Earth’s entire life support system.

“Mainstreaming effective and equitable climate action will not only reduce losses and damages for nature and people, it will also provide wider benefits,” IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee said in a statement.

“This Synthesis Report underscores the urgency of taking more ambitious action and shows that, if we act now, we can still secure a liveable sustainable future for all.”

In short, our world needs climate action on all fronts — everything, everywhere, all at once.

António Guterres

U.N. Secretary-General

The IPCC’s Synthesis Report, approved during a week-long session in Interlaken, Switzerland, provides world leaders with a gold-standard summation of modern climate science. It is the first comprehensive report from the U.N. climate panel since the 2015 Paris Agreement and marks the closing chapter of the group’s sixth assessment cycle.

The findings, distilled from over 10,000 pages of research from six assessment reports, are expected to serve as a manual for tackling the climate emergency.

Mortgage industry to factor climate risks before lending

“The climate time bomb is ticking. But today’s IPCC report is a how-to guide to defuse the climate time bomb. It is a survival guide for humanity,” U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said on Monday.

“As it shows, the 1.5-degree limit is achievable. But it will take a quantum leap in climate action.” Guterres described the report as a “clarion call to massively fast-track climate efforts by every country and every sector and on every timeframe.”

He added, “In short, our world needs climate action on all fronts — everything, everywhere, all at once.”

Speaking at a news conference, the U.N. chief announced a plan to “super-charge” climate efforts through an “all-hands-on-deck Acceleration Agenda.”

This initiative must see governments “hitting the fast-forward button” on their net zero deadlines, Guterres said, with rich countries urged to commit to reaching net zero as close as possible to 2040 and emerging economies called on to reach net zero by 2050.

COP28 climate summit

The IPCC said Monday that there is more than enough global capital to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions if existing barriers are removed.

The role of policymakers across the globe, the report’s authors say, is crucial in reducing these barriers, while investors, central banks and financial regulators can also “play their part.”

“Today’s message from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) synthesis report is abundantly clear: we are making progress, but not enough,” U.S. climate envoy John Kerry said in a statement.

“We have the tools to stave off and reduce the risks of the worst impacts of the climate crisis, but we must take advantage of this moment to act now,” Kerry said.

The report’s findings also highlight the losses and damages the world is already experiencing — and will likely continue to face in the absence of effective climate action.

“Climate justice is crucial because those who have contributed least to climate change are being disproportionately affected,” said Aditi Mukherji, one of the 93 authors of this Synthesis Report.

“Almost half of the world’s population lives in regions that are highly vulnerable to climate change. In the last decade, deaths from floods, droughts and storms were 15 times higher in highly vulnerable regions,” she added.

A vehicle drives past a dry, cracked lake bed on its way to Boulder Harbour in drought-stricken Lake Mead on September 15, 2022 in Boulder City, Nevada.

Frederic J. Brown | Afp | Getty Images

‘Now or never’ territory

What the Silicon Valley Bank collapse means for climate tech

A view of Silicon Valley Bank headquarters in Santa Clara, CA, after the federal government intervened upon the bankâs collapse, on March 13, 2023.

Nikolas Liepins | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Silicon Valley Bank was the go-to bank for startups seeking bankers who understood the startup life and balance sheets. That was especially true for the cohort of startups being built and scaled to address climate change.

After a very stressful weekend for many startup founders and investors, banking regulators hatched a plan to backstop SVB’s deposits, ensuring that depositors won’t lose their money.

Founded in 1983 specifically to help startups, SVB had a strong and established business in climate, boasting 1,550 climate tech and sustainability clients, according to its website.

“Silicon Valley Bank had a very good reputation in the energy transition space and were willing to put their money where their mouth is, unlike many of their peers,” said Mona Dajani, the head of renewable energy and infrastructure law at Shearman & Sterling.

“Many clean energy companies banked with SVB because they had an established and dedicated clean energy practice and they were perceived to have more experience in the clean energy space than most regional and big bulge bracket peers,” Dajani told CNBC.

But the climate space has grown up since SVB started, and that paves the way for new lenders to serve the market.

“Fundamentally, the companies that are coming out of climate right now have real strength. These are foundational companies, and people are going to want to lend to them because it’s good business,” explained Katie Rae, the CEO of The Engine, an accelerator and venture fund focusing on “tough tech,” including climate startups.

“Just in the last three days, I probably have 50 emails in my inbox from different providers saying, ‘Hey, I know SVB is not in good shape. We also do venture debt.’ So many are going to emerge,” Rae told CNBC in a phone conversation on Tuesday.

Wind turbines operate at a wind farm, a key power source for the Coachella Valley, on February 22, 2023 near Whitewater, California.

Mario Tama | Getty Images

Understanding how startups work

Venture-backed startups are an unusual type of business. In their early stages, they might not have cash flow, revenues or even customers. Instead, they rely on venture funding, where investors offer cash in exchange for equity, hoping that the startups prove out their technology, find customers and eventually grow into giants.

Providing banking to those kinds of customers requires special skills and an appetite for risk.

“Nobody understands startups as well as Silicon Valley Bank and how to lend to them,” says Zachary Bogue, a long-time tech investor and cofounder of DCVC.

“I envision a startup’s application getting simplify annihilated by a big bank’s risk committee,” Bogue told CNBC.

That was exactly Bill Clerico’s experience back in May 2009. When Clerico moved to Silicon Valley with Rich Aberman to grow their fintech company, WePay, they had a Bank of America small business account, but the account didn’t have the services the startup needed.

“Silicon Valley Bank understood that even though we may have only had $10,000 or so in deposits at the time, we had a lot of potential,” Clerico told CNBC.

As it turned out, SVB was right to bet on Clerico. WePay was acquired by JPMorgan Chase in December 2017.

“That early investment in our relationship paid off,” Clerico told CNBC. “Over time our deposit balances grew to hundreds of millions, we borrowed millions from them in venture debt and we processed billions through their accounts.”

In January 2022, Clerico launched Convective Capital, a $35 million venture capital fund investing in wildfire technology. He ardently hopes somebody can fill the gap left by SVB.

“Some folks may conflate their balance-sheet-driven meltdown with the failure of this startup-focused business model — but in fact, I think that banking startups continues to be a great business and a role that someone needs to fill,” Clerico told CNBC. (Notably, Clerico is an angel investor in Mercury, a startup working to meet this need.)

“I hope SVB and their business model persists in some form,” Clerico said.

President Biden on SVB fallout: No losses will be borne by American taxpayers

The ‘1,000-pound gorilla’ of venture debt lending

Solar panels are set up in the solar farm at the University of California, Merced, in Merced, California, August 17, 2022.

Nathan Frandino | Reuters

Climate is good business

SVB was an early supporter of climate technology, helping a lot of climate tech companies get off the ground. But as the sector has matured, participants believe other financiers will be more willing to lend to those companies.

“Silicon Valley Bank’s early support and commitment to supporting climate tech startups certainly helped catalyze the enormous migration of capital that you’re now seeing deployed into the sector,” Adam Braun, a founder of the climate startup Climate Club, told CNBC.

For instance, SVB provided financing to 60% of community solar projects, said Kiran Bhatraju, the CEO of Arcadia, a climate technology company that, among many services, helps people connect to community solar projects.

In this, the bank “was a climate bank pioneer,” said Steph Speirs, co-founder and CEO of Solstice Power Technologies, which has built a technology to help connect people to community solar projects.

“But renewables have come a long way in the last decade and there’s now a much wider universe of potential financiers looking to get on board,” Speirs said.

That’s what Braun expects to see, too.

“I believe we’ll see many more institutions build dedicated climate practices and funds to support startups emerging in this space,” Braun told CNBC. “While SVB may have been a first mover, I don’t think the events of last week will diminish the desire to finance and support the emerging companies that are leading the rapidly growing climate tech sector forward.” 

First Republic and JPMorgan are “increasingly making this category a priority,” Chauncy Hamilton, a partner at the venture capital firm XYZ, told CNBC. “More and more banks are paying attention to climate,” Hamilton said.

Mark Casady, a founder of the venture capital firm Vestigo Ventures, agrees.

“Climate solutions are too powerful a force to be stopped by the failure of a bank,” Casady told CNBC. “The need is critical and time is not on our side to find solutions. Since this is a fundamental need, it will get more backing rather than less.” 

That transition will take time, however. And for companies working to combat global warming, time is the ultimate enemy.

“I do expect big banks to ultimately step up and provide the financing the industry needs to move forward — these projects are just too attractive and the promise of climate tech is too great. But it will take some time, and delays can be costly in the fight against climate change,” Bhatraju told CNBC.

“With all the new investment in climate tech and the opportunities ahead afforded by the IRA [Inflation Reduction Act], there is a ton of momentum. We don’t want to lose that,” Bhatranju said.

The rise of the carbon removal industry

discrimination, women bear brunt of climate change

A woman crossing dry Sabarmati riverbed in India. India’s rural women are bearing the brunt of climate related shocks like severe drought and extreme weather events,

Universal Images Group | Getty Images

India’s rural women are bearing the brunt of climate related shocks like severe drought and extreme weather events, which are drastically affecting their daily livelihoods.

Climate change is fast emerging as “a massive issue,” said Megha Desai, president of the Desai Foundation in India, a public foundation aiming to elevate the health and livelihood of women, especially those living in rural communities.

Every organization that works in rural India “has seen their constituents feel the direct and immediate impact of climate change,” said Desai, who has helped to expand the mission’s work to around 2,500 villages across eight states. 

“Whether it be from being displaced, experiencing drought, or from crops drying up and not having access to running water — women are bearing the brunt of these issues,” she told CNBC.

Crime is a big worry for women in India

A United Nations report last year highlighted that women are more vulnerable than men to the adverse impact of climate change.

“Extreme weather events due to climate change disproportionately affect women and girls and their ability to perform their everyday tasks, which partly explains why some girls are forced to drop out of school,” the report said.

Clinton’s climate fund in India

Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (L) accepts granules of salt from a salt pan worker at Kuda village, in Little Rann of Kutch on February 6, 2023. (Photo by SAM PANTHAKY / AFP via Getty images)

Sam Panthaky | Afp | Getty Images

“I went about three and a half hours by car to visit the salt marshes, to meet with women who were harvesting salt. And some of them are the seventh generation in their family who have done this very hard work,” Clinton told a townhall.

“I was talking with women construction workers. In the heat that you’ve been having — over 120 plus degrees [Fahrenheit], they cannot hold the tools,” said Clinton.

“You can understand that the tools are burning up. We need creative ways to try to build and invent new tools that will not be as prone to overheating.”

The poor do not want charity. That’s the biggest lesson we have learnt in our last five decades. All they need is an enabling environment.

Reema Nanavaty

director general, SEWA

As part of the Clinton Global Initiative, the former first lady announced a $50 million Global Climate Resilience Fund, in partnership with the Self Employed Women’s Association, the largest women trade union in India.

The climate fund will allow women and communities to fight climate change and help provide new livelihood resources and education, said Clinton.

The Desai Foundation has also partnered with SEWA and CGI on the climate fund. To help mitigate the problem, the foundation is providing reskilling courses so that women can purse new jobs in areas like banking and entrepreneurship, in four states in rural India. 

Urban-rural divide

The climate issue is emblematic of the deeper challenges facing India’s women, said Desai, who highlighted the stark difference in gender progress between urban and rural areas of the country.

“Those in the cities kind of forget about rural India and don’t bring them along in their plans for women advancement,” she said, pointing out that “nearly 70% of the population still lives in rural communities.”

“That’s one of the biggest hurdle — the urban-rural divide,” Desai noted. “We still have a long way to go in bringing running water to many of these communities.” Having access to clean water makes a huge difference in tackling the overall health issues for rural women, she added.

In the latest economic survey released in February, the government said rural women were increasingly participating in economic activity.

There are 'very clear' signs that India's labor market is on the mend, says chief economic advisor

KOLKATA, INDIA – MARCH 8, 2022: Indian women activists take part during a demonstration to commemorate the International Womens Day demanding Gender Equality on March 8, 2022 in Kolkata, India. (Photo Sukhomoy Sen / Eyepix Group/Future Publishing via Getty Images)

Future Publishing | Future Publishing | Getty Images

Still, “the urban-rural divide exists,” noted Khullar, who also serves as an assistant manager at the ministry of women and child development at Invest India.

“Things are changing, but at a very slow pace. If this is rectified, then yes, India will outperform in the gender equality indexes,” she added.

Gender discrimination

Bringing women to the forefront to increase the numbers is not enough — the add and stir approach is now too old.

Akanksha Khullar

Visiting fellow, Observer Research Foundation

“In simple terms, this means that the employment status of women does not depend on their educational qualifications. This leads to the alarming result emerging from a mathematical model that gender discrimination is almost total in the country,” said Oxfam India.

“It is thus patriarchy that makes a large segment of women, who have the same or even higher qualifications as compared to men, stay outside employment, and this has shown no improvement over time,” the report noted.

Oxfam India called on the government to actively enforce effective measures for the protection and right to equal wages and work for all women.

We need to make economies work for women, says Asian Development Bank

The most pressing problem for India is the “patriarchal structures and discriminatory institutions that have persisted and only exaggerated during the pandemic,” said Khullar.

The “supremacist masculine culture” needs to change to achieve any progress in gender parity, she added.

“Bringing women to the forefront to increase the numbers is not enough — the add-and-stir approach is now too old,” she said. “These women whether in urban or rural India instead, need to be provided with the adequate tools, which will help in their advancement.”

Touring with Clinton as she visited the salt pans, Reema Nanavaty, director general from India’s largest women trade union SEWA, shared a similar sentiment. Women just want to work in an environment where they are treated with respect and dignity, she said.

“The poor do not want charity,. That’s the biggest lesson we have learnt in our last five decades. All they need is an enabling environment.”

Asking people to stop eating meat won’t fix climate change

Microsoft founder Bill Gates reacts during a visit with Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of the Imperial College University, in London, Britain, February 15, 2023.

Justin Tallis | Pool | Reuters

Climate change is an urgent issue, but it won’t be solved by asking everyone to become vegetarians — or any other similar calls for consumers to cut back, Bill Gates said at a recent event in India.

“Will all Indians become vegetarians? Will all Americans become vegetarians? I wouldn’t want to count on it. Anybody wants to evangelize that they’re welcome to,” Gates said, speaking with Anant Goenka, the executive director of the Indian Express Group, an Indian media company.

Meat has a notoriously high climate footprint. Food systems in the world are responsible for about 35 percent of total global anthropogenic greenhouse gasses, according to a 2021 study published in the journal Nature Food, and of that, 57 percent correlates to animal-based food and 29 percent to plant-based foods.

“In climate movements, you can get this, ‘Hey, we’ve been consuming too much,’ and ‘Hey, maybe we shouldn’t travel anymore,'” Gates said, speaking at the 5th Ramnath Goenka Memorial Lecture delivered on March 1.

These de-growth arguments have limited applicability, though. While Americans could use less energy than they currently do, Gates said, it would be “completely unjust” to ask people living in India to continue using the same amount of energy.

“I don’t think we can count on people living an impoverished lifestyle as a solution to climate,” Gates said.

In fact, “most of the demand for more energy, more cement, more steel is coming in from middle-income countries like India,” Gates said.

Recognizing that it is a fool’s errand to ask consumers to restrict their demand for energy significantly, or to eliminate their consumption of meat, does not mean that Gates is encouraging frivolous and excessive use of energy.

But, climate change is creating more need for energy used in air conditioning, he said, and that’s only going to keep increasing. “As India gets warmer and warmer, I am betting demand for air conditioning is going to skyrocket,” Gates said.

Currently, the United States “has the most air conditioning by far,” also surpassing what is demanded in Europe, Gates said. As it gets hotter, increased air conditioning use, specifically if the energy used to power the air conditioning generates greenhouse gas emissions, can create a “positive feedback loop,” Gates said. A positive feedback loop is where one outcome accelerates another.

What the fertilizer crisis means for food prices

Gates reiterated that global warming is happening very slowly, which makes it much different than a fast-spreading pandemic.

“It just gets worse and worse slightly every year. But it’s one of the hardest things to fix, because modern economies throughout the globe are based on energy intensity, and over 80% of those energies come from burning hydrocarbons,” Gates said. Hydrocarbons are fossil fuel-based energy sources, like coal or oil.

Gates said rich countries are mostly responsible for the heating caused by emissions, but that lower-income and middle-income countries near the equator experience most of the damage. “It’s in an incredible injustice,” Gates said. “And so even though it kind of creeps up on you, we need to act now we need to act in a very big way.”

Nuclear energy

Gates also addressed nuclear energy during his talk in India.

“What happened with nuclear energy is that, unlike computers, where the prices kept going down, the complexity of the nuclear reactors kept going up. And so by the time they got to what we have today, as it’s called third generation, they really priced themselves out of the market,” Gates said. “The overruns, the costs were just incredible. And then cheap, natural gas came in and made it very tough. And so the nuclear industry didn’t invent a new design. What’s necessary, is to start from scratch.”

Gates admits he is “very biased” on nuclear energy because he has founded the nuclear innovation company, TerraPower, which is working on advanced fission reactors, among other things. And Gates is also invested, to a lesser extent, in a number of fusion startups.

Nuclear energy can be generated either by splitting up atoms, with fission, or by slamming neutrons together forming larger atoms and releasing energy, or fusion. Fusion can generate nearly unlimited clean energy without the long-lasting radioactive waste that fission creates, but it has so far proved elusive to recreate fusion, the way the sun generates energy, here on earth.

“I’m actually an investor at a lower scale in about 4 of about 16 companies that seem to be making some progress there. We can’t count on it,” Gates said of fusion being commercialized. “There’s a few of them that say, in 10 to 15 years, if everything went perfectly, they think they can make cheap electricity. And so, we have to keep an open mind: Will nuclear fission solve its problems? And nuclear fusion come into existence? It would be great for humanity if those solutions worked well.”

Gates understands the skeptics of nuclear energy because the industry hasn’t been able to deliver cost-effective results on time, but he’s still optimistic about the potential.

“So that … as the climate damage gets worse, we have as many options as possible to build this new energy system. And nuclear, because it’s not weather dependent, it’s very nice, you can mix that in,” Gates said. “I mean, I’m a big fan of building solar and wind as fast as you can, build more grid as you can, that is super good.”

How nuclear power is changing

Biden proposes stricter limits on toxic wastewater from coal plants

The U.S. flag flies on Campbell Transportation’s towboat M.K. McNally as it passes Mitchell Power Plant, a coal-fired power-plant operated by American Electric Power (AEP), on the Ohio River in Moundsville, West Virginia.

Brian Snyder | Reuters

The Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday proposed stricter limits on how coal-fired power plants dispose of wastewater containing pollutants such as arsenic and mercury, which have contaminated the country’s rivers, lakes, streams and underground aquifers.

The proposed rule would reduce the discharge of pollutants into the country’s waterways by about 584 million pounds each year, according to the agency, which said the reduction would specifically benefit low-income communities and communities of color that are disproportionately exposed to power plant pollution.

The proposal comes after the Trump administration in 2020 weakened regulations that required coal plants to treat polluted wastewater with modern filtration methods and other technology before it was dumped into waterways.

Environmental groups argued that those regulatory rollbacks allowed the energy industry to use cheaper and less effective methods to treat polluted wastewater and urged the Biden administration to strengthen discharge limits.

In 2021, the Biden administration said it was kicking off a new rulemaking process to reverse the wastewater rollback and would unveil new requirements on wastewater by fall 2022. Meanwhile, many coal plants were allowed to dispose toxic wastewater into waterways as the agency drafted new limits.

“This proposed rule represents an ambitious step toward protecting communities from harmful pollution while providing greater certainty for industry,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement. “EPA’s proposed science-based limits will reduce water contamination from coal-fired power plants and help deliver clean air, clean water, and healthy land for all.”

Power plants, especially those burning coal, are responsible for 30% of all toxic pollution from industrial sources discharged into the country’s waters. Pollutants in wastewater have contaminated drinking water sources, recreational waters and aquatic life across the country.

The agency’s proposed rule would impose more stringent standards for three types of wastewater generated at power plants and eliminate toxic scrubber and bottom ash wastewater discharges. The EPA estimates the proposed rule will collectively cost power plant operators about $200 million each year.

Holly Bender, senior director of energy campaigns at the Sierra Club, said in a statement that the Biden administration’s proposed rule will hold utilities accountable for pollution.

“While coal plants are releasing toxic chemicals and sludge into our waterways, affordable technologies exist to eliminate nearly all of the toxic metals and other chemicals in power plant wastewater — and many plants are already using them,” Bender said.

The EPA said the proposal would also retain and refresh a compliance path for power plants that commit to stop burning coal by 2028. Power plants that are in the process of complying with existing regulations and plan to stop burning coal by 2032 would be eligible to comply with the proposed rule, the agency said.

Dozens of power plants across the country are set to stop burning coal this decade as the industry continues to transition away from climate-changing fossil fuels to cleaner-burning natural gas and renewables such as wind and solar. 

The companies trying to clean the world's rivers

Mast, formerly DroneSeed, acquires Cal Forest Nurseries

Seattle startup Mast (formerly DroneSeed) takes a high-tech approach to reforestation.

Mast Reforestation

Last year, the U.S. endured more than 68,000 wildfires, consuming around 7.6 million acres nationally, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

Both numbers are up from 2021, continuing an unfortunate trend taking place over the past two decades as a result of a rapidly changing climate.

All that burnt land means the country is in need of a dramatic increase in reforestation. But there’s not a big enough supply of native seeds and seedlings to meet the regrowth demands.

That’s where a Seattle startup called Mast Reforestation sees an opportunity.

Founded in 2016 as DroneSeed, Mast is best known for flying swarms of unmanned aerial vehicles over charred land to drop seeds that can take root and grow. Mast still provides aerial seeding, but drones are just one piece of its growing “reforestation as a service” business, said founder and CEO Grant Canary.

On Tuesday, Canary said Mast has acquired Cal Forest Nurseries, which grows tens of millions of native conifer seedlings per year for timber companies, private landowners and public agencies in the Western states. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

The acquisition comes two years after Mast purchased SilvaSeed, a company that collects and processes cones and seeds from wild forests. Mast now has 130 full-time employees, including 45 from Cal Forest.

Canary said technology is needed to “scale reforestation,” and the addition of Cal Forest should help shorten the currently yearslong time that Mast’s customers have to wait for native seeds and seedlings.

Clean startup, DroneSeed, begins investing in reforestation by generating carbon credits

Reforesting faster

“We need to pull carbon out of the atmosphere, and trees are highly evolved and effective at doing that,” Canary said about the climate change benefits of speedier reforestation.

Besides improving air quality, trees growing at the right density in a forest support greater biodiversity and can even serve as a kind of natural chiller plant, keeping water beneath their roots cleaner, colder and more plentiful in rivers and dams, Canary said.

Mast’s planned 2023 reforestation projects include a site in Montana to expand elk habitat around Yellowstone National Park and others in fire-affected communities.

In addition to providing supplies, Mast also works to sell carbon offsets for reforestation projects. That money defrays the costs of seeds, drone flights and other expenses and keeps landowners from having to shoulder the financial burden alone.

Companies buy the credits to meet their internal sustainability goals or to comply with laws that require them to offset their greenhouse gas emissions or other negative environmental impacts.

Last year, Mast went to work restoring a Western Oregon forest at Henry Creek as a pilot project, using its own seed supplies, and a combination of drone- and hand-planting techniques. For that initiative, the company sold carbon credits to tech companies including Shopify. It now intends for every reforestation effort to have an associated sale of carbon offsets.

Mast Reforestation, formerly known as DroneSeed, is ramping up the supply of native seeds and seedlings to restore wild lands after record fires.

Courtesy: Mast Reforestation

“The next step is to run that playbook for landowners across the West,” said DBL Partners’ Nancy Pfund, an early investor in Tesla, Mast and other climate-tech companies. “I think we will begin to see the company deftly address the shortage of high-quality carbon offsets for blue chip corporates with net-zero targets.”

While some investors shy away from businesses that rely on credits for revenue, the “compliance market” is growing. Carbon dioxide permits, which are traded on the global market, grew to a record value of $851 billion in 2022, according to Refinitiv estimates.

A year after Mast replants a site, a third-party forester will go out to test some sample plots to make sure trees are growing as planned and are bringing the intended environmental benefits.

Mast also sets up an endowment for each project that finances 100 years of monitoring of each site using a mix of manual inspections on site, and aerial imagery.

The company has other revenue models in its future plans. That includes targeting real estate businesses that want healthy forests on or near their properties, and state and federal agencies tasked with reforestation.

Elk at Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park

Source: Spring Creek Ranch

Mast has raised more than $36 million in venture funding from climate-focused investors including Alexis Ohanian’s Seven Seven Six, Social Capital, DBL Partners, Marc Benioff’s Time Ventures, Elemental Excelerator, and Spero Ventures.

Other companies are merging software with hardware to take on the global reforestation effort. Seed banks and reforestation organizations such as Flash Forest in Canada, Terraformation in Hawaii and the nonprofit WeForest in Brussels have also attracted the support of venture investors.

Pfund told CNBC that adequate reforestation will require a robust coalition of government, nonprofits, corporates and innovative startups. While forestry and reforestation aren’t getting the same federal funding as the electrification of transport, “what may look small and unknown today in reality holds the potential to create positive global change and, in so doing, deliver strong returns to investors,” she said.

Rivian to raise $1.3 billion amid EV demand concerns

The Rivian name is shown on one of their new electric SUV vehicles in San Diego, U.S., December 16, 2022.

Mike Blake | Reuters

Rivian Automotive plans to raise $1.3 billion in cash via a sale of convertible notes, joining a growing list of EV makers scrambling to hoard cash as demand falters.

Shares of Rivian closed down over 14% on Tuesday.

Rivian said late Monday it plans to sell the convertible notes — bonds that can be paid back with cash, stock or a mix of the two — to help fund the development and launch of its upcoming smaller R2 series of vehicles, now expected in 2026. The institutional investors purchasing the notes will have the option to buy additional notes worth up to $200 million, if they choose, above the initial $1.3 billion.

Rivian isn’t in an urgent cash crunch, at least not yet. The EV maker had $12.1 billion on hand as of the end of 2022, it said during its fourth-quarter earnings presentation Feb. 28, enough to fund its operations through 2025. But it recently made a series of moves to conserve cash, laying off 6% of its workforce and pushing the R2 launch out a year.

Rivian would be facing its last days if it wasn't for its Saudi backing, ZoZo Go CEO says

Rivian also said last week that it expects to produce 50,000 vehicles in 2023, fewer than the roughly 60,000 that Wall Street analysts had expected. That may be a sign that demand for its high-priced pickups and SUVs is falling short of its expectations.

Lucid, another startup making high-priced electric vehicles, also guided investors to lower-than-expected production in 2023 and said that it plans to ramp up its marketing in coming months, suggesting that it too is seeing fewer orders than expected.

Rivian raised nearly $12 billion when it went public in late 2021, helping it amass a cash hoard that still dwarfs that of most other EV startups. The company’s shares have lost over 80% of their value since the debut, though.

Rivian said the convertible notes will qualify as “green bonds,” meaning they meet a set of criteria that tends to attract institutions willing to accept lower returns in exchange for supporting sustainable development.

The notes will mature in March 2029. The interest rate and other terms will be decided when the offering is priced.

Oil chief leading COP28 summit urges energy industry to ‘up its game’

“Alongside all industries, the oil and gas sector needs to up its game, do more and do it faster,” Abu Dhabi National Oil Company CEO Sultan al-Jaber said during a keynote speech at CERAWeek.

Mark Felix | Afp | Getty Images

The chief executive of one of the world’s biggest oil companies, who will lead talks at the COP28 climate summit later this year, called on the energy industry to “up its game” to reduce emissions.

In a keynote speech to attendees gathered in Houston, Texas, for the CERAWeek conference — widely regarded as one of the biggest events on the calendar for the energy industry — Abu Dhabi National Oil Company CEO Sultan al-Jaber emphasized the “integral” role that the oil and gas sector plays in tackling the climate emergency.

“Energy leaders in this room have the knowledge, experience, expertise, and the resources needed … to address the dual challenge of driving sustainable progress while holding back emissions,” al-Jaber said Monday.

“It is this industry’s opportunity to reinvent itself and lead again,” he added. “Let me call on you to decarbonize quicker, future-proof sooner and create the energy system of the future today.”

The head of the United Arab Emirates’ state oil company was seen as a controversial choice to lead the COP28 climate talks in Dubai later this year. At the time of his appointment, many called on al-Jaber to relinquish his role, saying it poses a conflict of interest with his COP28 position.

Each year, ministers representing countries across the globe gather at COP to discuss how to achieve the aspirational goal of the Paris Agreement — curbing global heating to just 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by 2050.

If temperatures rise beyond this critical threshold, it becomes more likely that small changes can trigger dramatic shifts in Earth’s entire life support system.

The UAE, the third largest producer of the OPEC oil alliance, will host the U.N.-brokered climate talks from Nov. 30 through to Dec. 12.

The COP28 summit will see the first global stocktake since the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Oil and gas sector must ‘rapidly decarbonize’

Oil prices are in a good place right now, says Occidental Petroleum CEO

Speaking to Daniel Yergin, vice chairman of S&P Global and chairman of the CERAWeek conference, shortly after his speech, Adnoc’s al-Jaber said that the world “cannot responsibly unplug the energy system of today until the system of tomorrow is ready.”

Asked about his hopes for COP28, al-Jaber outlined key priorities across mitigation, adaptation, loss and damage and climate finance, among others,

“COP28 will be a COP of action,” al-Jaber said. “We want real results.”

He added, “The world must move from treaties to implementation. Solutions are needed inside and outside formal negotiations. It will also be a COP for all: inclusive of diverse stakeholders, accountable for commitments, and actionable on solutions.”

Lordstown Motors (RIDE) Q4 2022 results, EV deliveries, cash

Signage outside Lordstown Motors Corp. headquarters in Lordstown, Ohio, on Saturday, May 15, 2021.

Dustin Franz | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Lordstown Motors said Monday that it still had over $220 million in cash at the end of 2022, despite ongoing challenges that halted production of its Endurance electric pickup after just six were delivered.

Lordstown began deliveries of its first EV, the Endurance pickup truck, in November. Through the end of February, it had built about 40 trucks and delivered six to customers. But the company said on Feb. 23 that it had halted Endurance production to address performance and quality issues, and that it recalled 19 of the trucks to repair a faulty electrical connection that could stop the motors abruptly while driving.

related investing news

Goldman Sachs says Apple can rally more than 30% thanks to its services business


As of Dec. 31, Lordstown had $221.7 million in cash and short-term investments on hand.

Here are the key numbers from Lordstown’s fourth-quarter earnings report:

  • Loss per share: 45 cents, versus a loss of 42 cents per share in the fourth quarter of 2021.
  • Revenue: About $194,000. Lordstown had no revenue in the year-ago period.

Lordstown delivered three Endurance pickups to customers during the fourth quarter.

The Ohio-based startup is beginning a pivot to a new electric vehicle program in collaboration with Taiwanese contract-manufacturer Foxconn, which bought Lordstown’s plant and invested in the startup last year in a deal that could eventually be worth up to $170 million if all milestones are hit.

Lordstown said that Foxconn has so far invested $52 million, of which $30 million is earmarked for a new EV platform, which will incorporate components and engineering developed by the Mobility in Harmony Consortium (MIH), a Foxconn-led effort to develop an open architecture for electric vehicles.

Lordstown said that the next platform and vehicle program are “key” to its long-term strategy.

“Our asset-light business model and collaboration with the Foxconn EV ecosystem, including MIH, will provide the opportunity for Lordstown Motors to create winning EVs that are tailored to the needs of customers that use them for various work applications, while gaining the cost benefits of scale,” said CEO Edward Hightower in a statement.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.


$52.6 billion needed to protect the NYC area from climate change: ACOE

$52.6 billion. That’s how much the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers thinks it will take to protect the New York City area from coastal storms.

Its tentatively selected plan to address the problem, known as 3B, includes nearly $18 billion for breakwaters and seawalls and more than $14 billion for levees and floodwalls, among many other changes.

“There is no question that climate change is going to cost us. We’re going to have to pay to dig ourselves out of the hole that we’re in,” Rohit Aggarwala, chief climate officer for the city of New York, told CNBC.

Funding for this proposition would require congressional approval. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said 65% of the funding will come from federal sources, while 35% will come from nonfederal sponsors such as the states of New York and New Jersey. But experts say this is unlikely to directly affect local taxes.

“It’s unclear how these things will affect property taxes. Whether it’s the flood or the wall, these are changes to the places that we live,” Robert Freudenberg, vice president of energy and environment at the Regional Plan Association, told CNBC, implying that there doesn’t seem to be a way to avoid some additional cost.

On changing the look of region, Aggarwala said, “You can’t keep the ocean at bay and have the coastline look exactly the same.” However, he explained that along with preparing for climate change, the city still wants residents to have access to waterfront activity, the ferry system and beautiful views.

Plan 3B offers the “best bang for the buck,” said Bryce Wisemiller, a project manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ New York District. He said this is the most cost-effective plan to protect the region from storms that are likely to happen only once in 100 years.

Residents can explore the 3B plan, as well as suggested plans 2, 3A, 4 and 5, at the Army Corps’ interactive website. Wisemiller said the group is looking for all the feedback it can get by the current comment closing date of March 7.

Watch the video here to learn more about the plan to protect the New York City area from coastal storms.