Kiri from the Research Team went along to the inaugural Blue & Green Technology Conference, hosted by the US Department of State and UniServices in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland. A massive thanks to the organisers for putting together this event, as well as the contribution and welcome from Ngāti Whātua o Ōrākei. We look forward to many more of its kind in the coming years!
Cleantech has been a hot buzzword, and it’s not hard to understand why. It is well established that climate change and the ensuing environmental and ecological disasters are the largest existential threat to current and future generations, and its impacts are already being felt across regions, communities, and sectors around the globe. There are many ways in which the public and private sectors are attempting to address climate change through new policies, new strategies, and new technologies.
Cleantech, for those unfamiliar with investor-lingo, is used to refer to an overarching sector of companies and technologies that aim to improve environmental sustainability. Because of the size and breadth of the climate emergency in every facet of life, cleantech covers companies all across the market and technology spectrum, from energy production and storage, to water quality, food production, emissions reduction and removal, circular economies, and much much more.
Over the last two decades, private and public sector investment into cleantech companies has increased dramatically, with hundreds of billions of dollars being invested at all stages of companies and infrastructure. This has been supported by shifts in government policies to make more considered commitments to environmentally focused outcomes. For example, the COP27 Summit in November, the United Nations Climate Change Conference, included negotiated agreements on provisions for loss and damage preparations, a 1.5C temperature increase cap, a focus on reducing fossil fuel usage and encouraging the use of low-emission energy sources. Other more general overarching goals promoted by governments across the globe focus on areas including decarbonisation efforts, sustainable energy production, more secure and robust food production, water protection, and other critical areas of environmental and health concern. The growing environmental and geopolitical crises arising in the last few years have only exacerbated these existing pressures, and highlighted the urgent need for genuine solutions.
A central theme that came up throughout the Blue & Green Technology Conference was that while there is no one solution to the climate crisis, the many solutions we will need will only be possible through the collaborative implementation of a range of synergistic technologies and multidisciplinary approaches. This came through strongly in the wide variety of speakers across the two days, with talks, panels, and presentations; from Government discussing overarching policies and development frameworks, through to active investors in the cleantech space, established and startup companies developing groundbreaking cleantech and environmentally focused technologies, and indigenous and mātauranga Māori approaches to sustainable and just innovation here in the Pacific and abroad.
What was clear over the two days was the growing level of excellence of companies across the cleantech spectrum in Aotearoa New Zealand. From Dr Sean Simpson around the foundation of Lanzatech and the path the company carved into the global circular economy, to the 30+ startup companies across every facet of cleantech who were present at the conference. These included energy creation and storage, carbon capture, novel and recycled materials, non-fossil fuel propulsion, alternative proteins, clean water initiatives, and beyond. It was wonderful to see Liquium and Opo Bio present at the conference, two of the new additions to Matū Karihi’s portfolio.
Aotearoa New Zealand has a brilliant, bold, and slightly wild group of visionaries, innovators, and creatives who are dedicated to finding breakthrough solutions to some of the most critical global challenges we face, and the Blue & Green Technology Conference was an excellent platform to connect, share, and inspire all of us to take action and invest our time, resources, effort, and passion into protecting the future.