The Economic Opportunity of Decarbonization
Decarbonization offers unprecedented financial opportunity, providing the rare and thrilling opportunity to redesign our economy at a scale and scope that equals the transformation brought about by the Industrial Revolution. Here are the latest trends and growth prospects.
Our economy is quickly decarbonizing as countries, companies, and individuals find ways to reduce their environmental footprint and minimize carbon emissions. The process is facilitating innovation at an unparalleled scale, unleashing potential for colossal capital gains across all sectors of the economy. Buildings, transportation, industry, and agriculture are all becoming clean, green, connected, electric, and resilient.
In the process, we’re seeing an overhaul of our entire socio-economic system, with corporations, investors, and capital markets embracing Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) strategies to reduce risk, increase resilience, drive loyalty, satisfy stakeholder demands, and address social justice issues.
Decarbonization by the Numbers
COGNITION Smart Data, Green Builder Media’s market intelligence division, is currently conducting a survey about decarbonization, and early results have revealed some interesting insights into the latest decarbonization trends.
The companies that are decarbonizing are adopting renewable energy (35%), electrifying buildings and transportation (17%), and designing for resiliency (15%).
Homeowners claim that they are decarbonizing their lifestyles by recycling (86%), reducing waste (75%), increasing the energy efficiency of their homes (69%), buying sustainable products (59%), and eating organic and/or locally produced food (58%).
Consumers also report that they are very willing to pay more for decarbonized homes, vehicles, consumer products, packaging, shipping and apparel. Approximately 70% also indicate that they would be more loyal to a zero-carbon builder, manufacturer, retailer, airline, and automotive company.
Out of a variety of decarbonization solutions, consumers report the highest level of familiarity with Biological Carbon Sequestration (storing carbon in oceans, forests, grasslands, wetlands, and soils) and Point-Source Capture (capturing carbon when it is produced, like in a smoke stack, and storing it before it is emitted into the air.)
One-third (31%) of respondents believe that adopting renewable energy is the best way to decarbonize, followed by reducing emissions from industry and manufacturing (27%).
55% of respondents indicated that they think decarbonization is helpful to businesses.
Eight of ten (81%) respondents believe that companies aren’t doing enough to decarbonize our economy, and 64% report that the companies they work for don’t have decarbonization strategies in place.
The survey data also shows that respondents firmly believe that decarbonization provides significant opportunity for businesses:
- Over 70% indicated that decarbonization strategies generate positive brand equity
- 70% believe that decarbonization results in enhanced innovation
- 53% indicate that decarbonization commitments create more loyal employees and customers
Decarbonization Opportunity Ahead
It is estimated that only 35% of the technology that is needed to decarbonize our economy has yet to be invented, which means that we have a colossal opportunity—and challenge—ahead of us.
We can expect tremendous advances in carbon sequestration and utilization technologies, as well as alternative materials that offer carbon neutral alternative solutions for high impact sectors.
In the building sector, look for innovations like carbon-sequestering concrete, recycled steel, cross-laminated timber, magnesium oxide (MgO) wallboard, and products made with agricultural waste products like wheat, rice stalks, straw, and hemp.
Other innovations worth tracking include:
- Phase Change Materials: Substances that absorb or release large amounts of “latent” heat when they go through a change in their physical state (from solid to liquid and back again); considered to be highly efficient for thermal storage.
- Self-Healing Concrete: Water-activated bacteria that react with starch to produce calcite to repair cracks; with a 200-year estimated lifespan, this product reduces infrastructure maintenance requirements and costs.
- 3D Graphene: 3D-printed lightweight porous foam made of carbon that is reported to be 5% of steel’s density and 10x its strength; excellent for skyscrapers and tall buildings.
- Aerographite: Atom-made materials that grow stronger when compressed; touted to be the world’s lightest building material, 75x lighter than Styrofoam.
- Transparent Aluminum: Ceramic alloy that is 85% harder than sapphire and resistant to corrosion, radiation, and oxidation.
- Translucent Wood: 90% transparent, this material is highly insulated, strong, and biodegradable; excellent for solar panel cells, window glass replacements, natural indoor lighting, and architectural details.
- Aluminum Foam: 100% recyclable foam made by injecting air with molten metal; its high strength-to-weight ratio makes it excellent for resilient cladding.
- Wool Brick: Fused with wool and seaweed polymer, this material is 37% stronger than traditional brick; reduces greenhouse gasses from firing traditional bricks.
Watch for more information about decarbonization from Green Builder Media over the coming months, including a full report on the decarbonization survey.