What is Climate Tech?
Climate tech refers to technologies that are focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, capturing greenhouse gases, or addressing other impacts of global warming.
For example, both renewable energy and carbon capture technologies aim to reduce levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, and so are regarded as climate tech industries. Meanwhile, technologies such as sea wall defenses and improved weather warning systems make living with the effects of climate change more manageable, and so fall under the climate tech umbrella as well.
Some climate technologies like wind power have been around for many years. However, there are an increasing array of new climate tech innovations such as artificial intelligence applications, satellite imagery tools and data science techniques offering novel, forward-thinking approaches to tackling earth’s climate challenges. All of these technologies have an important role to play in making climate tech as a whole efficient, effective and scalable.
Breaking Down the Climate Tech Market
The climate tech market is a broad one, ranging from physical infrastructure solutions to biotech, imaging and energy innovations.
One of the most well known climate tech industries is renewable energy. Renewable energy generation refers to the creation of electricity in ways that don’t produce carbon emissions (unlike the burning of traditional fossil fuels). Energy sources in this category include hydrogen, fusion, solar, wind, tidal and wave power, geothermal and nuclear.
Long-duration energy storage technologies
These technologies are designed to improve our ability to store energy more effectively. Technologies in this category include compressed air, flow batteries, gravity storage and thermal techniques.
Next-generation battery technologies
Finding alternatives and improvements to traditional lithium-ion batteries has been a key focus for a number of years, involving novel approaches in chemistry and materials sciences. One major application of improved battery technologies is designed to enable advances in electric vehicle range. Others include enhancing the performance and convenience of consumer electronics and enabling better storage options for renewable energy.
Smart grid refers to technology that allows power utilities and their customers to communicate more effectively on usage and energy needs. The result is more efficient transmission of electricity throughout the network.
Whereas the majority of transportation solutions address large-scale transport issues, micro-mobility focuses on solving the "last mile" problem, namely, where users have challenges traveling to or from major transportation hubs like bus or railway stations. Distances covered by these solutions typically average less than six miles, and bicycles and scooters have been traditional options.
Unlike traditional fossil fuels such as oil and coal, biofuels are produced using different sources of renewable biomass, such as the production of ethanol from sugar cane.
Electric vehicles are a growing industry, with expansion fueled by improved battery technology and increased emphasis on decarbonization.
Electric vehicle charging stations
Electric vehicle charging infrastructure is a key part of electrifying the mobility sector. The number of charging outlets has significantly expanded as awareness and adoption of electric vehicles has increased, with new options and wider compatibility also emerging.
Electric transportation is not only ground-based. Indeed, there are many companies developing hybrid or all-electric powertrains for electrified aerial transportation. Electric flight is seen as an important research area to help decarbonize overall air transportation, with primary applications in logistics and passenger transportation.
Urban air mobility
This industry is focused mainly on the use of vertical-take-off-and-landing (VTOL) aircraft in aerial transportation, generally best suited for urban environments.
Materials and resources
As the demands for consumer technologies and renewable energy in particular skyrocket, the need for more mineral resources will put greater demands on mining production. The solutions in this space lean on robotics, AI and digital twins among others to help mining companies meet this demand effectively, efficiently and with reduced waste.
Lithium extraction technology
With demand for lithium expected increase significantly in the coming years, new, more efficient extraction approaches are needed – particularly those that reduce water use. New lithium extraction technologies are focused on mining this key element more efficiently.
Smart waste management
Waste management is a dirty and often inefficient task. Smart waste management companies are focused on developing technologies to improve how the world manages its waste. Bins equipped with sensors, database management and logistics platforms and even robots and computer vision systems that can sort trash and recycling are all part of areas of development.
The acceleration of climate change and biodiversity loss has prompted many governments and private actors to look more closely at preserving and restoring natural environments. Activities in this space include drone-based replanting, satellite and AI-supplemented imaging and carbon offset programs.
Battery recycling startups
Companies in this space are designing technology and processes to recycle lithium-ion batteries more efficiently, especially those that are used in electric vehicles. Due to a combination of economic and technical factors, a very small percentage of lithium-ion batteries are recycled today.
Regenerative agriculture companies are focused on developing farming and grazing practices that rebuild soil organic matter and restore degraded soil biodiversity, in addition to other benefits. This space is witnessing growing attention as pressure on the agricultural sector grows to reduce carbon-intensive processes.
Indoor farming is the practice of growing of crops or plants in an enclosed facility, using technologies like hydroponics and artificial light. Indoor farming enables year-round growth and also reduces inputs such as water. The practice also reduces the footprint of traditional agricultural operations through vertical stacking. Companies within indoor farming include growers and facilities, equipment and software.
Cellular agriculture focuses on the production of agricultural products from cell cultures using a combination of tissue engineering, biotechnology, molecular biology and synthetic biology. Companies operating in this industry design new approaches for producing proteins, fats, and tissues that would otherwise come from traditional agriculture. Most of the industry is focused on producing animal products like meat, milk and eggs, in ways which don’t require raising and slaughtering farmed livestock. The most well-known cellular agriculture concept is cultured meat.
Carbon capture / carbon storage
Carbon capture refers to a wide variety of technologies used to capture, store or remove carbon from industrial processes, as well as from the environment more broadly. Technologies in this category include afforestation, biochar, carbon sequestration and direct air capture.
Companies operating in this sector are focused on reducing carbon emissions from common industrial outputs like steel, concrete and chemicals.
Green hydrogen refers to the production of hydrogen as a fuel through renewable technologies. The majority of hydrogen today is produced from fossil fuels, as the process is comparably low cost. However, companies in this space are developing technologies to bring down the costs of producing hydrogen at scale in a carbon-neutral way.
Natural disaster preparedness and response companies
Companies operating in this space are focused on developing technologies to assist individuals and businesses vulnerable to natural disasters. With severe weather events growing more frequent due to climate change, these companies offer proactive and reactive measures to help minimize loss of life and property.
Climate change, accompanied by increasing deforestation and desertification, is expected to worsen the issue of water scarcity around the world. Water scarcity startups are developing solutions to help improve access to and cleanliness of fresh water in drought-prone regions.
Climate modeling as a service
This service describes companies analyzing climate data with the intention of providing risk assessments. As increased global temperatures make weather patterns more unpredictable, these startups aim to provide more stability to businesses risk modeling. Often leveraging AI, applications in this space include flood risk assessment, real estate valuations and agricultural production.
These companies are developing tools that help individuals and businesses adopt climate-friendly lifestyles or practices. For example, by stating on a food label how much carbon was used to produce it, consumers may be more conscious of buying products with fewer carbon emissions.
Buildings include companies advancing technologies that help to monitor and optimize energy usage in commercial and residential buildings.
* Derived from Pitchbook's Climate Tech Market Glossary