Although the pandemic is still raging across Europe and much of the world, data from the UK, Israel and other vaccine leaders shows that there is light at the end of the tunnel. We all need to start preparing for life after Covid, which will be strangely familiar, yet utterly different.
I got back to London at the end of February as the schools reopened and have now had my first shot of the vaccine. It has been an unusually busy time, even by my standards.
Along with the usual summary of stuff I have written, media appearances and an angel portfolio update, this newsletter contains some really big news:
Read on for details…
Season 3 of Cleaning Up will be kicking off with a conversation with Tony Blair – Wednesday 14 April, 6pm BST
Season 2 of Cleaning Up came to a close just before Easter, after another series of fantastic conversations:
Season 3 of Cleaning Up will be kicking off on Wednesday 14 April with Tony Blair, UK Prime Minister from 1997 to 2007, now Executive Chair of the Tony Blair Institute. Don’t miss it – 6pm BST (7pm CET, 1pm EST, 10am Pacific) on YouTube and all good podcast platforms!
If you are a fan of Cleaning Up, please spread the word: tell your friends, give us likes, thumbs up and reviews, and share your thoughts on social media. We have no marketing budget so our reach depends entirely on people like you.
If you have not yet tuned in to Cleaning Up, please do so! You can subscribe to the YouTube channel or listen on any good podcast platform like Spotify, Apple Podcasts, PocketCasts or Google Podcasts.
We don’t usually write reports at Liebreich Associates. But when the InterAmericas Development Bank (IADB) asked me to do a deep dive into electric ferries, I couldn’t say no – it is such an interesting sector.
The result is the 88-page Opportunities for Electric Ferries in Latin America, which concludes that many routes could go electric today, because although the capital cost would be higher than for diesel, operating cost would be much lower. And, as batteries get cheaper and more dense, longer pure-electric routes will become feasible – up to 100 km round trip for large ferries and 400km for fast catamarans by 2040.
For Latin America this represents a potential $6.8 billion value chain opportunity by 2040 – and that is just ferries, not including other types of electric vessels.
Opportunities for Electric Ferries in Latin America is free to download here.
I still write for BloombergNEF four times a year, and my piece this quarter was all about sustainable finance.
Climate and Finance – Lessons from a Time Machine starts with a look back to the bad old days of 2012, when the financial system was “institutionally fossilist”, with investment decisions biased toward incumbent, fossil-based technologies despite the rapidly improving economics of clean energy.
It reviews the smorgasbord of over 50 international organisations now pushing, pulling, pledging or promoting climate finance across the financial system – from civic society through to central banks, via index providers, asset owners and managers, banks, insurers, standards providers and financial accounting bodies.
Next, it gets stuck into the weakness of current carbon accounting approaches – all are based on Scope 3 emissions which cannot be aggregated into portfolios because of double-counting – and of the EU Taxonomy, which is arbitrary, reductive, administratively cumbersome and intrusive.
I don’t want to suggest that the current surge of interest in sustainable finance is entirely misplaced – far from it. It is absolutely vital, if we are to address climate change and other planetary environmental challenges. The sector just needs to mature, its methodologies need to be strengthened and its institutions to find their feet.
I finish with four promising areas for action:
Climate and Finance, Lessons from a Time Machine can be found here, free to read.
I’m starting to get into the swing of things with the Board of Trade, participating in a number of virtual visits and round tables and attending our second virtual meeting. Roll on the end of the lockdown, when we will start doing Board of Trade meetings around the country.
Early March saw the publication of our first report, Global Britain, Local Jobs.
In it we describe how an export-led recovery will bring benefits across the UK, pushed for new trade deals going beyond the old EU ones, and voiced our support for modernisation of the World Trade Organization.
The report didn’t go quite as far as acknowledging that net zero is the de facto overarching goal of UK economic policy – that will take time to sink in – but I was delighted to see green trade embedded throughout the document.
The next Board of Trade report is going to focus on Green Trade.
I’ve also participated in a number of events on trade and sustainability, such as this high-level WWF/Chatham House round table on 28 January (my main remarks start here). On 23 March, I participated in a very lively panel on the role of free trade in supply chain resilience at the Department for International Trade’s Business of Resilience Conference.
Over the past few months, I have participated in a number of excellent events on energy and net zero, including the following:
Climate Tech Noodle
The 5th Climate Tech Noodle took place on 9th March. For those not (yet) invited, this is a quarterly informal Zoom call for senior leaders in climate technology innovation. Each Noodle consists of two sessions, one on a sector and one on an aspect of the acceleration ecosystem.
March’s Noodle took a deep dive into some new frontiers in biology and genetics with Edward Perello, Associate Director for Agriculture at Deep Science Ventures, followed by a primer on carbon offset markets with Guy Turner, former head of carbon and chief economist at New Energy Finance/BloombergNEF.
If you want to know more about future Noodles, contact Piotr Pajda at Liebreich Associates.
Angel Portfolio News
CASC – the Climate Action Solutions Centre for COP26
Over the past few months, I have put together a consortium to rent the Blair Estate, a stunning country house just outside Glasgow, for the entire two weeks of the upcoming UNFCCC COP26 climate summit in November to run a series of events, dinners and whiskey tastings.
While there is still plenty of uncertainty about the exact form COP26 will take, because of Covid, I’m in little doubt it will go ahead. With UK cases right down and the vaccine apparently working, there is no way the UK and Scottish governments are going to miss the economic and PR opportunity!
CASC – the Climate Action Solution Centre – will host a programme of presentations, round-table discussions, workshops and dinners (and some whiskey tastings) around the theme of delivering on climate pledges: it’s great that so many countries and organisations are committing to net zero, but we want to help them front-load the problem-solving that will be required for them to get there.
I’ll be providing more information in future newsletters, but meanwhile, if you think your organisation might want to be part of CASC, do get in touch!
Did I mention the whisky tastings?
My new business – EcoPragma Capital
Since the start of the year, I have been working with a friend of mine from HBS, Henry Lawson, to put a bit of structure around my investment activities and how I work with growth companies. We have now decided to launch EcoPragma Capital LLP, offering a range of services to investors and companies.
Henry Lawson and my early careers were very similar – Cambridge engineering, HBS and strategy consulting. But, while I skied in the Olympics and then dived into the low-carbon transition, Henry went off to play a leading role in the digitisation of businesses and markets using SaaS, Cloud, machine learning and data science – technologies that are now helping to transform the energy, transport, industry, built environment, infrastructure and agriculture sectors.
Having sold his most recent start-up, Henry and I met online to chat about his deep green property renovation and knock around ideas for his next business. The timing was excellent: one thing led to another and the idea for EcoPragma Capital was born.
As we entered this critical decade, each year around $4.4 trillion is invested in the capital assets that decide the world’s GHG emission trajectory. Of this, just $1.2 trillion is compatible with net zero. We therefore very rapidly need to shift $3.2 trillion from high-carbon to net-zero-compatible solutions.
This means not just massive disruption to investment flows in infrastructure, it also represents a massive opportunity in growth equity. According to the IEA, around a quarter of emissions could be eliminated by technologies that are already mature; technologies to address another quarter of emissions don’t yet exist; that leaves half of global emissions to be eliminated by technologies that are somewhere between the lab and maturity. They are going to need a whole lot of capital, and a whole lot of help.
It is too early to reveal the exact products and services EcoPragma Capital will be offering. But I will guarantee one thing, it will be ambitious!
If you are interested in being part of the EcoPragma Capital journey, there are three things we are looking for right now:
To find out more about EcoPragma Capital and to get involved, email me!
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So there you have it. Another busy quarter, plenty of activity, plenty of news.
Stay healthy and safe, this pandemic is not over. And I’ll check back in with you this summer!