Innovation That Matters

The Springwise Top 5: UK Climate Innovations

Innovation Snapshot

To celebrate London Climate Action Week, we take a look at the freshest UK climate innovations

Climate change is increasingly being recognised as the greatest challenge of our time. But with the global population only growing, it is becoming harder and harder to mitigate the impact of our food, energy, and material consumption.

Global greenhouse gas emissions have not yet peaked, and the harsh realities of human-induced climate change are becoming impossible to ignore. In the past month, for instance, multiple heatwave warnings have been issued across various countries as temperatures reached record highs, with Europe warming twice as fast as the global average, according to a report recently published by the World Meteorological Organization and the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service.

The headlines seem bleak, but there is hope if we act quickly. As United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has previously highlighted: “The climate emergency is a race we are losing, but it is a race we can win”. If we are to win this “race”, though, we need to completely reimagine our current patterns of living and consumption. Individual behavioural changes are, of course, important, but so are new technologies and novel ways of thinking. And this is where innovators come in.

London has consistently been spotlighted as a hub of innovation. In fact, the city was identified as the leading ecosystem for tech startups in Europe, and has ranked joint second with New York in Startup Genome’s Global Startup Ecosystem Ranking since 2020, just behind Silicon Valley. Investors recognise the city’s potential, too, with London-based clean tech companies receiving up to 39 per cent of investments in UK clean tech.

This week (24th June to 2nd July) marks the fifth annual London Climate Action Week (LCAW), which, as one of the world’s largest independent climate change events, is a perfect opportunity for world-leading sustainability professionals and groups in the capital to come together and collaborate on solutions that will tackle the climate emergency head-on.

To celebrate LCAW and all the creativity that London and the wider UK have to offer, we’ve taken a look in the Springwise library and chosen five of our favourite UK-based climate innovations.

Using fairy tales to teach about climate change

Photo source Véronique Heijnsbroek

Using fairy tales to teach about climate change

Climate change may appear simple on the surface, but it is a rather complicated topic to teach. And schools could be doing a better job. Data collected by UNESCO from 100 countries shows that only 53 per cent of the world’s national education curricula reference climate change, and 40 per cent included only a minimal level of content. To help individuals better understand the climate crisis, a team led by Lancaster University has focused on developing accessible and memorable ways of communicating sustainability-related topics – using fairy tales. Fairy tales are not only for children, and the team is using their own “telling tales” to respond to various climate-related challenges. Using the characters of mermaids, vampires, and witches as metaphors, the team hopes to communicate issues such as electricity generation, low-carbon transport, and plastic pollution more engagingly. Read more

A new paint that passively cools buildings

Photo source Pirta

A new paint that passively cools buildings

As global temperatures rise, so does the demand for air conditioning (AC). And, ironically, as we cool buildings with AC, we’re further contributing to global warming, with cooling technologies producing almost four per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. To reduce our reliance on energy and emissions-intensive AC systems, one father and son – Howard and Robert Atkin – have developed an innovative cooling white paint from their home garage in Yorkshire. Because of its reflectivity and ability to release heat, the formula was proven as an effective tool to passively cool surfaces. Read more

Sustainability-linked loans for indigenous forest peoples

 Photo source Amazonian Impact Ventures

SUSTAInability-linked loans for indigenous forest peoples

In late 2022, governments met for COP15 in Montreal to discuss a new global deal to protect at least 30 per cent of our land, inland waters, and oceans by 2030. One key focus was to stop the use of biomass for energy, with scientists arguing that this destroys forests, accelerates climate change, and has devastating consequences for nature and wildlife. To effect change, Amazonia Impact Ventures (AIV) is taking a unique approach. The UK-based enterprise has developed a blended finance approach that links indigenous peoples, investors, and businesses buying from the Amazon. The company uses investment funds to offer loans to indigenous businesses that are structured around agreed sustainability targets. In addition to the funding, AIV also offers support to develop regenerative farming practices, with hopes of improving sustainable land use over one million hectares of rainforest. Read more

A glass brick that collects solar energy

Photo source Build Solar

A glass brick that collects solar energy

In the UK, Solar PV capacity reached 12 gigawatts of energy in 2021. Yet, the MCS (Microgeneration Certification Scheme) estimates that only around 900,000 of the 24 million homes in the country currently rely on solar power. There is much room for improvement, and one of the easiest ways to incorporate renewable energy generation into a home or building is by embedding the technology into construction materials. Two University of Exeter researchers, created Build Solar to do just that. Built with patent-pending technology, the Solar Squared glass brick is a direct replacement for traditional glass building materials. Solar Squared bricks let light through, just like current glass building materials do, but generate sustainable energy at the same time as well. Read more

A climate-positive chocolate brand

Photo source Love Cocoa

A climate-positive chocolate brand

The mainstream chocolate industry is affecting rainforests, damaging the environment, and contributing to global warming – and the problem begins when sourcing the cocoa bean. In normal chocolate production, cocoa farmers clear tropical forests to plant new cocoa trees rather than reusing the same land. This has resulted in massive deforestation in West Africa, particularly in The Ivory Coast. But British chocolate company Love Cocoa has created a brand that makes chocolate consumption and manufacturing more sustainable. As the great-great-great-grandson of John Cadbury, creator of Cadbury chocolate, James Cadbury aims to follow in his footsteps by building his company on ethical grounds. For every product sold, the company is planting one tree in their Plant A Tree Project to create a fairer, more sustainable chocolate industry. Read more

Written By: Matilda Cox