🌱 The Grumpy Optimists #122
💰 Record renewable energy investment and my thoughts on the Netherlands.
Happy Monday. 👋
Welcome back to another episode of The Grumpy Optimists and your weekly recap of climate news from the last seven days.
This week, I’ve been in the Netherlands on a work trip with my company, Zevero. From an environmental perspective, I’ve realised there’s quite a lot to like about a country that has food waste bins on trains, where cycling is the cool way to get around, regardless of age and gender, and vapes are not existent. It also makes you realise that the way we build our cities and what we prioritise as transport is a choice, one that countries like the UK and the US just don’t seem to get right. The only thing this trip has made me grumpy about is the fact that, as a British person, I’m not able to come and freely work here.
If you’re new here, welcome to The Grumpy Optimists newsletter. I’m George, I do all things decarbonisation with Zevero during the day, run long distances for fun on weekends and try to be as optimistic as I am grumpy about the world.
But anyway, let’s look at why you’re really here, the news from the last week. 👇
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👀 Articles to read
💰 Global investment in renewable energy hits record highs. According to Bloomberg, investment in the energy transition was up 17% in 2023 compared with 2022, hitting $1.8 trillion.
🍫 A German company makes Cocoa without using cocoa beans. The Munich-based startup Planet A has raised $15.4m to scale its cocoa alternative. The company uses fermentation to turn ingredients like oats and sunflower seeds into chocolate without using any cocoa beans. That’s actually mindblowing.
📈 The power of historical progress and how it makes for a better future. Sometimes, the world can feel like it’s becoming a worse place, where regression happens more often than progression, but the data shows that’s not the case. A brilliant article from Hannah Ritchie talks about how we need to use the power of the past to project us towards a better future. The quote, “It [the past] lets us see that the seemingly unachievable, isn’t”, is something I think of almost daily. Look up at a cathedral that took hundreds of years to make, a railway line that probably had to be fought to be built but now exists, and nobody thinks of the time it took to build. We spend so much time in the present, it’s sometimes just as good to look at the past to make us more optimistic about the future.
🔌 EV sales are falling, or are they? “America is hitting the brakes on electric cars. Has Biden noticed?” that was an article in The Times this week. Google EV sales, and you’ll get a lot more, but is that true? No. While there may be a decline in the pace at which EVs are sold, electric vehicle sales continue to grow. In the US, sales are up 50.6% YoY (931k to 1,402k), and in China, "NEV" (mostly EV) sales jumped 92% year-on-year in January, reaching nearly 600k. So I’d say this is a perfect example of let’s look historically and see the way we’re heading.
🥤 Sprite ditches its labels for sustainability, but is it that great? Sprite removed the labels on their products in favour of an embossed bottle as part of a limited trial in the UK.
💭 My thoughts. The company say that it will make it easier to recycle their bottles and reduce the packaging materials. While it’s true that it’s removing unnecessary plastic, it makes a small amount of difference for recycling. When Coca-Cola (the parent company of the Sprite brand) is the largest source of litter, at least here in the UK, simply removing the label will not cut it. I’m in two minds about whether I’m grumpy or optimistic about this. On the one hand, it’s a brand taking some form of action and even the small wins will lead to large results with a company of this size. I’m with Louis on this one.
However, this is literally just a marketing exercise to get people talking about the brand and to show that we recognise Sprite without the label. Anyway, I’m now thirsty for a Sprite. Screw you marketing it’s 8.30am on a Sunday.
💍 Pandora uses 100% recycled gold and silver for its jewellery. Back in 2020, the company set the target to use only recycled gold and silver by 2025, and they’re already achieving it. As a result, nearly 58,000 tons of CO2 will be avoided annually. That’s a lot of emissions and a lot of land that can be left unscathed by mining.
🫂 Employees are asking leaders to take action. This is one for all of you who feel you’re alone in asking your company to do more to combat climate change. You’re not alone. This survey from Deloitte found that 69% of employees want their companies to invest in sustainability, with 18-34-year-olds showing a strong interest. The desire to be green is recognised by C-suite leaders, too, with roughly 40% putting employee morale, recruitment and retention as key benefits of implementing sustainability efforts. In fact, 59% of all leaders surveyed said “employee activism” caused them to increase their sustainability efforts over the past year. Keep pushing. You’re doing amazing.
🥕 Sustainable food systems could bring $10tn in benefits. A new study has found that moving more public funding towards smallholders can help generate trillions of dollars annually while improving human health and addressing climate change. The study found that the hidden cost of our current agriculture system sits at $15tn and that action should be taken to reduce the impact of the food we grow. The paper also says that pricing in the environmental impact of food would lead to reduced meat consumption purely because of the true cost of meat. So, why can’t we do it? The problem is that the transition will lead to higher food costs and is unlikely to happen.
🏴 Scotland produces enough renewable energy to meet over 100% of its demand. Green energy produced 113% of Scotland’s electricity in 2022, making it a renewable energy powerhouse of the UK.
🤝 Climates X Memes
This article was written in a coffee shop in Amsterdam (no, not that kind), a pub whilst waiting for the Eurostar and my bedroom on Sunday evening. I’m currently obsessed with this song from Novo Amor. Have a great week, and do share me with a friend if you think they’d enjoy this (this blog is growing at around 4% a week at the moment; that’s numbers to get a VC purring).
George, the Grumpy Optimist 💚