Why now is the best time to leap into climate tech

March 22, 2023
Startmate team in the wild

The ANZ climate tech sector is booming, and with good reason. The world’s leading scientists are telling us - or getting arrested to warn us - that we only have until the end of the decade to secure a safe climate future.

Our mission? To limit global warming to under 1.5 degrees Celsius. 

To put that into context:

  • We need to decarbonise globally at a rate of 15.2 percent per year: last year we decarbonised by 0.5 percent. 
  • Fossil fuels need to decline by 6 percent per year - last year they went up by 2 percent.

At the last COP meeting The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres said, ‘we are on  a highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator.’ 

Even though we’ve seen a surge of climate awakening and action in the past few years, we are still not on track to preserve our future. As environmentalist Bill Mckibben tells us, ‘winning slowly is the same as losing.’ 

But we’re not throwing up the white flag just yet. We’re all seeing green. With the future of civilisation up for grabs, it’s game on. 

Why climate tech?

According to Andrew Beebe, the managing director of the $1b VC fund Obvious Ventures, ‘climate is like the internet…it’s going to disrupt every corner of the global economy.’

It’s not just about decarbonisation; we need tech to create new forms of energy, build resilient food systems, revolutionise fashion, reshape our cities, and heal our oceans. 

Andrew is betting big on a climate-tech future and he’s not the only one. Research from Project Drawdown suggests that, between 2020 and 2050, an investment of US$23.6 trillion is needed to limit warming to 1.5C, but that this spending could save US$140 trillion.

Climate action isn’t a cost, it's an investment. Even Larry Fink, Black Rock’s CEO, wrote that ‘decarbonising the global economy is going to create the greatest investment opportunity of our lifetime.’    

With a short window to act and trillions of dollars on the table, the world is hungry for climate solutions. 

Why now?

As devastating natural disasters like the 2019 bushfires and recent floods in Australia, New Zealand and Pakistan hit home, a once distant problem has been replaced with the urgency of now, and  money is flowing into climate action at a rate of knots.

An entire ecosystem of investors, financiers, super funds, VC's, private equity, family offices, banks, high net worth individuals, sovereign wealth funds, governments and even corporates are scrambling to shift funds into climate solutions in the race to decarbonise and build resilience.

Millennials and Gen Z are holding corporations accountable, workers around the world are ‘conscious quitting,’ even ASIC and other global regulators are starting to fine companies for greenwashing. 

New organisations are emerging every day to take climate action exponential: Doctors For The Environment, Architects Declaire, Surfers for Climate Action, Work For Climate, AFL 4 Climate Action, Frontrunners, Leaders for Climate Action, Investor Group on Climate Change, RE100… the list is longer than the end credits of Avatar 2. 

Late to the party, Governments around the world are finally getting more serious about action.

The United States Inflation Reduction Act is the biggest investment in climate solutions in US history. It includes US$370 billion in federal subsidies over a decade aimed at expanding renewable energy and boosting manufacturing.

The Australian Government recently announced an AUD $15b National Reconstruction Fund, and other state and city level funds like Breakthrough Victoria’s $2b fund are also fuelling an innovation boom.  

With new financing mechanisms like Birchal’s equity crowdfunding, Tractor Ventures and LendForGood’s debt loans, Brighte’s low interest sustainability loans, and the exponential proliferation of Angels and cashed-up climate VCs, there has never been more ways to fund a climate tech project. 

And even though we’re moving into a period of economic uncertainty, the scale of the climate change challenge, the fact that most climate tech solutions facilitate cost savings, and the dry powder ready to be deployed, means climate tech is one of the sectors most resilient to shock

Why you?


Let’s set the scene:

Stage left, we’ve got the leading scientists in the world telling us we are the last generation who has the chance to solve the climate crisis and hold on to a functioning civilization. 

Stage right, we have a tsunami of awareness and action rippling across society and citizens, consumers, governments, impact investors and philanthropists, all hungry for change and ready to spend. 

Who’s centre stage, standing proud and fierce in the spotlight? The change-makers.

To solve the world's greatest challenge, we’re going to need the world’s best talent.

If you’re living in Australia or New Zealand, you're lucky. We have so many amazing natural resources, enormous creative and intellectual capital and a strong, collaborative and supportive community. We’re also the beneficiaries of economies based on burning, extracting and selling enormous amounts of fossil fuels.

That makes us both empowered and obligated to lead the global climate tech revolution.   

The new change-makers

We are rising to the challenge. Two years ago, Mick Liubinskas wanted to start a blog about the climate tech sector in Australia and New Zealand. He got so much interest that he turned the blog idea into a company.

Climate Salad was born with the ambition of helping over 100 ANZ climate tech companies and creating 10 global successes by 2030 - but the project has grown so quickly that Mick has had to raise that ambition.

The 2022 Climate Salad industry report showed that the ANZ climate sector has over 170 climate tech companies with a valuation of over $4 billion. They have raised over 1.4 billion in the past 12 months and created over 4000 jobs

With groups like Rewiring Australia, Sydney’s Greenhouse climate tech hub, and the Mike Cannon-Brookes backed Boundless all being launched within the last couple of years, the climate tech sector in ANZ is set to explode.   

Climate tech is more than solar panels and windmills: there are thousands of ways to build the future. It encompasses agtech, fintech, ocean tech, regenerative agriculture, robotics, drawdown technologies, energy efficiency and storage, even circular fashion. Sites like Holoniq and Global Climate Landscape showcase the vastness and richness of the ecosystem.

These businesses don’t just need tech engineers, they need lawyers and accountants, marketers and managers.

Whatever you’re passionate about, there’s a climate tech solution with your name on it. 

Amber Electric founders, Chris Thompson and Dan Adams

Founders in action

Startmate has already seen inspiring success stories emerge from the burgeoning sector. 

Chris Thomson and Dan Adams left behind their previous lives as consultants at Boston Consulting Group to become champions for a better tomorrow.

They founded Amber, an electricity retailer that accelerates the uptake of renewable energy by giving customers access to wholesale energy prices. Chris and Dan participated in Startmate’s Accelerator in 2018. In 2019 they raised a $2.5 million dollar round led by Square Peg. Shortly after that they raised $20 million from The Commonwealth Bank.

Now they’re on track to serve over 100,000 customers, reshape the Australian energy market, and serve as a case study for disruption that can be emulated globally. 

Now the new wave of change-makers in Startmate family is gearing up for some epic impact.

To name a few from recent cohorts, Kapture is on a mission to decarbonise 83 million diesel generators worldwide, Gridmo is upgrading the way we connect renewables to the energy grid, Kelpy is creating premium packaging from seaweed and Aquila is helping the world build an infinitely scalable energy network powered by lasers. 

The task before us might be herculean, but ANZ is already leading the way. With our window for action closing, and a tsunami of investment waiting to be unleashed, if you were ever going to leap into climate tech, now is your time. 

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Written by
Written by
Daniel SimonsDaniel Simons
Daniel is a writer, Startmate Media Fellow and Co-Founder of Transitions Film Festival.

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