Why climate tech isn’t just clean tech 2.0, especially at an industrial level

As sustainability, environmental impact, and the climate crisis have reached “top of mind” for most of the world, widespread attention on finding solutions, mostly technology-driven, birthed a family of new terms and categories that we’ve all been using to wrap our heads around what’s out there. Here are three that are both commonly used and commonly confused: greentech, cleantech, and climate tech. 

Clean tech, intuitively enough, is any technology that reduces environmental impacts via energy efficiency, more sustainable use of materials, or other environmental protection action. Green tech is its synonym. 

The term climate tech seems to speak for itself. But as cynics will ask, is this just dressed up “clean tech,” reinvented to match the words on every industry spokesperson’s lips? The general consensus we see is “No.”

Most substantively, “climate tech” encompasses a broad set of sectors which tackle the challenge of decarbonizing the global economy by 2050, including new approaches to cut emissions across energy; the built environment; transport; heavy-asset industry; food and land use; and carbon capture, storage, and other forms of carbon management (PwC 2021).

There are important differences observed in investor dynamics as well, explained recently by GreenBiz: “What was once a narrow purview around clean tech recently has morphed into the all-encompassing term of climate tech, and unlike the boom-and-bust cycle that accompanied the clean energy frenzy of the late 2000s, climate tech appears to have a sustainable presence in the minds of long-term investors.” And it’s only heating up. 

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