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21 Oct 2023

This week’s Current Climate, which every Saturday brings you the latest news about the business of sustainability. Sign up to get it in your inbox every week.

Array of Solar Panels in Southern Spain, between Madrid and Granada, Spain

The world may be close to hitting an “irreversible solar tipping point.”

Getty Images

A new report from analyst firm Ember has found that for over half of the world’s economies, fossil fuel use peaked at least five years ago. Consequently, carbon emissions from these countries have also fallen–20% over the past decade. According to the report, these 107 countries represent 38% of global energy demand and many of them have seen a decline in greenhouse gas emissions despite growth in that demand. “We are on the cusp of a new era of fossil decline in the global power sector,” Dave Jones, the firm’s global insights lead, said in a press release.

A big part of the reason for this has been the decreasing costs of renewable energy sources, which have an advantage of not requiring fuel and therefore don’t have their ongoing costs of operation subject to the winds of global geopolitics. Indeed, an analysis of solar energy published in Nature Communications this week suggests that the world may be close to hitting an “irreversible solar tipping point” where the technology comes to “dominate global markets without any further climate policies.”


Jose Acain (L) and Matt Gialich (R) cofounded Astroforge.


As the world transitions away from fossil fuels and begins to rely even more heavily on electricity, it’s going to need more metals. But Earth’s resources are limited and many of the best places to mine for important metals are already being tapped. Enter Astroforge, a lean startup that aims to take advantage of the abundance of metals in the cosmos by mining asteroids. Early next year, the company aims to send a spacecraft out to scout a nearby asteroid it suspects is an “M-type”—meaning it has metals in much greater concentrations than this planet’s surface.

Read more here.

Electricity Infrastructure: The White House and Energy Department just doled out $3.5 billion to modernize utility lines and for grid improvements in 44 states, the first such dispersals from funds set aside in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Americans will start seeing the benefits of these upgrades soon, senior White House advisor Mitch Landrieu told Forbes. “This money is heading out the door. And as soon as they get it in the ground, you'll start seeing the investment,” he said. “This is a $3.5 billion down payment of a $10.5 million grant program so there will be more to come.”

Grid Storage: Plus Power, which develops standalone battery solutions to support renewable energy on the grid, announced that it has raised $1.8 billion in financing to support the building of energy storage facilities at sites in Arizona and Texas.

Plastic Recycling: Germany-based Covestro announced that its first dedicated polycarbonate mechanical recycling compounding line has been launched at its site in Shanghai, China. The facility aims to produce over 25,000 tons of polycarbonates every year using recycled materials.

Thermal Batteries: Harvest Thermal, which is developing thermal batteries for heat pumps to make them more efficient, announced it has raised a $4 million investment round led by Earth Foundry, bringing the company’s total financial backing to $11 million.

Greentech Startup Incubation: Elemental Excelerator, a non-profit incubator of climate technology startups, announced its latest cohort of 15 companies, which will collectively receive $12.5 million in financial backing as well as other support.


Tesla CEO Elon Musk speaks at the debut of the Cybertruck in November 2019.

AFP via Getty Images

Tesla’s long-delayed Cybertruck, its blocky version of a pickup truck, will finally be available in November though CEO Elon Musk cautioned investors to keep their sales expectations in check because of how difficult and costly it is to manufacture. The mercurial billionaire said the controversial vehicle is “an amazing product” but “there will be enormous challenges in reaching volume production with the Cybertruck and then in making the Cybertruck cash flow positive.”

Read more here.

The U.S. government is making an unprecedented push to invest in clean hydrogen as part of its efforts to cut greenhouse gas pollution. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm tells Forbes that the government believes fuel will be crucial in decarbonizing heavy industrial processes, particularly steel and ammonia production. “Hydrogen is going to play a role in the hardest-to-decarbonize sectors (that are) 30% of our CO2 emissions,” she said.

A team of researchers in Japan has created a cleaner alternative to using cobalt—a rare element and key component in lithium-ion batteries—that also improves the battery’s chemistry.

The European Union has officially banned the sale of loose plastic glitter and some other products that contain microbeads, part of a push to cut microplastic pollution in its member nations by 30% by 2030.

Walmart heir Lukas Walton’s impact investment firm Builders Vision released a 57-page report detailing how it had deployed $3 billion in investments aimed at fighting climate change and improving other aspects of the environment.

Long-term exposure to air pollution during and after pregnancy increases the chances a woman could face postpartum depression, new research suggests, supporting previous research that suggests prolonged exposure to air pollution negatively affects mental health.

15 ClimateTech Companies to Watch (MIT Technology Review)

Atlantic City’s massive offshore wind farm project highlights the industry’s growing pains (Popular Science)

A Severe Drought Pushes an Imperiled Amazon to the Brink (The New York Times)

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