Our latest round-up of some of the significant cleantech news from April includes two historic announcements from Germany and a call for greater transparency in the sustainable business world.
Cleantech news 1: The German Greens make history
Last month, the German Green Party nominated Annalena Baerbock as its candidate for chancellor. While this may not immediately seem like important news, it is actually the first time in its four-decade history that the party has put forward a contender to lead the country’s government. This is because traditionally, only Germany’s two largest parties – the Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats – propose nominees for the role of chancellor as they are usually the only political parties considered likely to lead a coalition government.
The therefore momentous announcement by the Green Party demonstrates the vital role it is expected to play in the country’s forthcoming general election. According to recent polls, the Greens have between 20-22% of the vote, trailing only current chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats. Recent polls also show that popularity for the conservatives is dwindling, from over 40% last summer to 29% currently. Some polls even suggest that the conservatives are only four or five percentage points ahead of the Greens. German business is also behind the Greens, with a survey of 1500 executives showing that 26.5% selected Annalena Baerbock as their preferred choice for chancellor.
Growing popularity for the German Greens means that the party is in a powerful position to join, or even lead, the country’s next government. Its performance in September’s election will determine whether Green parties can break through the political ceiling and play a role in governments in other countries worldwide for years to come.
Cleantech news 2: A welcome end to greenwashing?
In April, the European Commission took additional steps to make sure more money is channelled towards sustainable activities by adopting the EU Taxonomy. The comprehensive package of measures enables investors to invest in more sustainable technologies and businesses, helping push Europe towards climate neutrality by 2050.
With the climate stakes being higher than ever, both environmentally and financially, greenwashing tactics must be recognised and eradicated. Greenwashing is, unfortunately, more prevalent than ever, with growing numbers of companies attempting to mislead the public with their supposed sustainability commitments. While traditional energy companies such as Exxon, Shell, and BP publicly champion their transition to renewables and describe themselves as climate positive, though aren’t backing this up with financial commitments. According to Bloomberg Green, companies spent US$400 million in climate lobbying in 2018, less than half the US$960 million they spent on non-climate politicisation.
Recognising the need for greater transparency and accountability in sustainable finance, PlanA.Earth marked Earth Day 2021 by launching a campaign to end greenwashing. This movement includes a public petition calling on the European Commission to bring further transparency to the sustainable business world by defining and regulating greenwashing further. PlanA.Earth is determined to see legislation introduced, requiring companies claiming carbon neutrality to be legally required to disclose their carbon footprint to the public.
Cleantech news 3: Climate protection confirmed as a fundamental human right
Speaking of Earth Day 2021, President Joe Biden also marked the day by bringing together 40 world leaders for the first virtual Leaders’ Summit on Climate. Wanting to show that the U.S. was ready to not only re-enter but lead global action to tackle the climate emergency, he announced that the country will now aim to halve its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
Several countries also strengthened their individual climate commitments at the summit. Germany was not one of these countries, though it will soon have to set new targets after a landmark ruling by its highest court. Judges of the Karlsruhe supreme constitutional court have decreed that the government has until the end of 2022 to improve its Climate Protection Act and ensure it meets 2030 greenhouse gas reduction goals more immediately.
The ruling comes after a legal challenge from young environmental activists and groups, including Fridays for Future, Greenpeace, Germany’s Friends of the Earth and other non-governmental organisations. Passing judgement, the judges said that young people’s “fundamental rights to a human future” were threatened and that the existing law jeopardised their freedom, with climate targets set too far in the future. The ground-breaking legal victory validates climate protection as a basic human right and is a historic success for the global climate movement.
What does all this mean for cleantech?
The introduction of the EU Taxonomy should mean that investors from across Europe are more exposed to cleantech companies than ever before and make investments easier to finalise. These benefits mean innovative, clean technologies will only increase in demand, especially in Germany given the country’s urgent requirement to decarbonise quicker than previously planned and the potential increased presence of the Green Party in government.
As we know, cleantech is a crowded marketplace, with companies battling for position and recognition amongst competing and similar technologies. Therefore, those businesses planning fundraising rounds must make sure that they stand out from the crowd, with investment and marketing materials that are polished both visually and in the written form. Senior leaders should also be well prepared for pitches to investors and be capable of passionately sharing value propositions and clearly and succinctly explaining unique selling points that reflect their company’s commercial value.