Innovation thrives in a crisis, but what does that mean for climate innovation in a post COVID-19 world?  

Every industry has had to adapt amid the coronavirus pandemic; sporting fixtures have been postponed, gigs rearranged, and restaurants closed during their busiest period. The National Theatre has brought their world-class productions online, Pizza Pilgrims have created ‘Pizza in the Post’ and Envision Virgin Racing have even brought you Marbula-E 

Cyril Yee and Bryan Guido Hassin from The Rocky Mountain Institute both believe that crisis is the grandmother of invention, as humans have a long history of mobilising quickly and effectively to confront great challenges in times of crisis.  

The current pandemic is a great example of this however the world is undergoing another crisis – climate change. Huge resource is deployed into climate change, with global leaders holding conferences and major A-list celebrities discussing the topic, but this crisis has not attracted the same levels of intense innovation as the current pandemic. 

“We cannot afford the loss of an entire generation of climate tech start-ups.” – Yee and Hassin 

Climate innovation could be further at risk, the current climate shows that an economic downturn could further harm start-ups. Whilst climate innovators can be agile companies, they are often cash-poor and it can take years for the development of their new technologies.   

Billionaire philanthropist, Bill Gates, seconds this and believes that coronavirus will set back climate innovation, but not irrevocably. Gates spends a huge amount of resource on finding solutions for climate change and has noticed a shift in focus from climate change towards COVID-19, but he doesn’t believe this has to be a huge setback. Speaking on TED Connects, Gates noted that there were useful lessons to be learned during this crisis for climate innovators and has emphasised a greater need to listen to and work with scientists.

The world has already seen that pandemics catalyse innovation and often with it an accelerated need for change with an environment that allows for increased launching and testing of new ideas – SARS in 2002 saw a significant growth of ecommerce.  

Working From Home is the new normal– Zoom has seen a huge uplift in share prices since the outbreak – and the world can expect to see an increase in similar products to suit this new normal, where travel to work is no longer expected. There has been a cultural change amongst the outbreak that has already led to a change in perceptions and this stimulates innovation.  

Christiana Figueres believes that COVID-19 has allowed the climate crisis to be brought to the forefront of the world’s mind saying that “The COVID-19 pandemic has unleashed humanity’s instinct to transform itself in the face of a universal threat and it can help us to do the same to create a liveable planet for future generations.”  

The current pandemic may have halted climate innovation in the short-term, but it has created a more profound basis for climate innovators moving forward. As the world returns to its ‘new normal’ it’s extremely important that climate innovators are able to thrive and capitalise on a new mindset – one less willing to travel and more aware of lower emissions during the pandemic – so that the ongoing crisis of climate change can be met head on.