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Climate tech could provide laid-off engineers with a soft landing

Protocol Climate

Hello and happy Taylor Swift presale day to all who celebrate. Today’s newsletter will not be a treatise on how “Snow on the Beach” is a climate change song, as tempting as it may be. Instead, we’re diving into the climate tech leaders who are welcoming laid-off tech workers, as well as why two-wheelers are the future of EVs.

Climate tech rolls out the welcome mat

Laid-off tech workers have a potentially lucrative opportunity waiting in climate tech, if they want it. That’s the message the burgeoning industry is sending to many of those affected by the massive layoffs at major tech companies like Meta, Twitter, and Stripe in recent weeks.

Leaders in climate tech are trying to help workers find soft — and meaningful — landings. Former senior leaders at Lyft, Stripe, and Twitter who now work in climate have been coordinating over the past week with workforce development groups including Climate Draft,, MCJ Collective, and Work on Climate.

  • They’re looking to provide job and learning resources for transitioning to the climate sector.
  • The result is a slew of job fairs, boot camps, coordinated social posts, and email blasts, as well as a non-exhaustive but growing job board of over 4,000 jobs in climate tech specifically geared toward those with traditional tech skills like software engineering and product management.
  • For some people, “This is a blessing in disguise for them to go in and do something with impact that they care about,” Raj Kapoor, a co-founder and managing partner at climate tech VC firm Climactic (and Lyft’s former chief strategy officer), told Protocol.

The climate tech sector is growing rapidly. Startups need software engineers, and they still need product managers. Lots of them.

  • This is going to be bigger than the internet,” Alex Roetter, once Twitter’s head of engineering and now a general partner and managing director at Moxxie Ventures, said.
  • He’s been getting the word out to former Tweeps in the Twitter alumni Slack community about resources like Climate Draft and opportunities in the industry overall.
  • In his view, climate tech isn’t just a vertical, but “a redoing of the entire economy,” with the potential to transform entire industries like transportation, buildings, and agriculture.
  • “The people who achieve this are going to be fantastically rich,” Roetter said.

The word is clearly getting out. There are signs that the tech to climate tech shift is already afoot.

  • About 1,400 people attended climate jobs platform’s online climate tech job fair last week, which founder and CEO Anshuman Bapna said was its largest ever. (Typically, anywhere from 300 to 400 people attend.)
  • Climate Draft co-founder Jonathan Strauss said he’s seen over 2,000 new profiles created on the platform since the Friday before last, when he and others started coordinating to get the word out.

“What’s happening in climate is we have the perfect storm of political will, capital, and the maturity of technology all happening simultaneously, especially in the U.S.,” Bapna said.

Read more on why it’s the perfect time to get in on the climate tech ground floor.

— Michelle Ma

The EV revolution is on two wheels

Tired: passenger electric vehicles.

Wired: electric motorcycles, scooters, and mopeds.

While EVs like the Ford F-150 Lightning and Tesla Model 3 get all the press, the real EV explosion is already happening on two wheels. There are 275 million two- and three-wheel EVs on the road globally, and that number is set to rise even higher as new policies and incentives spread and the number of startups making electric two-wheelers grows.

Asia is ground zero for the two-wheel EV revolution ... China is the epicenter, with roughly 9.5 million new two-wheel EVs registered in 2021 alone. But it’s far from the only place two-wheel EVs are cruising. Geography, economics, and policy make motorcycles and mopeds a perfect fit for the region.

  • Two-wheelers are a popular way of getting around in middle-income countries due to their relative cost-effectiveness compared with cars and trucks.
  • They’re well-suited to commuting and running errands in the growing number of densely packed cities across Asia, and it’s warm enough to ride year-round.
  • Policies in China, including banning gas-powered motorcycles in some cities in the 2000s, led to innovations in the electric motorcycle market.
  • In Taiwan, though, policies largely failed to electrify two-wheelers on the island. Instead, Gogoro, a battery-swapping company, helped spread e-scooter adoption.
  • Indonesia recently announced it was putting together incentives for e-motorcycle buyers that could make it the next electrified hotbed.

… but the revolution could spread. In Europe and North America, motorcycles are more of a way to get around for fun — say, a weekend leaf-peeping in the White Mountains — than a daily way of life. But e-motorcycles don’t have to be relegated to niche recreation, nor should they be necessarily.

  • More than 80% of the U.S. population resides in urban areas, with the average driver spending 35 miles a day on the road. It’s a distance easily traversed on two wheels.
  • E-motorcycles have much smaller batteries than heavyweights like the F-150 Lightning. Making them a bigger part of transportation could more efficiently allocate the limited supply of critical minerals.
  • “The physics is very simple: If I’m moving a 75 kilogram person in 1.5 tons of steel, glass, and rubber and you compare that to moving the same person on a 100 kilogram scooter?” Timo Eccarius, a mobility researcher at Taiwan’s Tunghai University, said. “[That’s] less weight, less energy, and less infrastructure needed. Really, it’s a no brainer. You don’t have to have a Ph.D.”
  • Startups like Ryvid, CSC, Kollter, and Sondors are already trying to fill the gap for city commuters with reasonably priced commuter bikes for the motorcycle-curious.
  • There’s still a policy gap to both incentivize adoption and also make riders safe on the roads.

Read more about the growing e-motorcycle wave.

Brian Kahn

A message from Conga

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One big number: $124 billion

That’s the combined GDP of dozens of countries around the world, and it’s also Jeff Bezos’ net worth. And soon, Bezos could be putting it to work for the climate.

The world’s fourth-wealthiest person announced on Monday that he’s planning on giving away the majority of his wealth to charity during his lifetime. (He did so on the day that the company he founded started laying the groundwork for letting go of up to 10,000 workers.) The bulk of it will go toward fighting climate change.

  • This announcement comes days after Bezos Earth Fund CEO Andrew Steer announced a partnership focused on spurring investment in renewable energy through carbon credits.

Before you get too excited, it’s worth noting that this falls short of the commitments made by a number of other billionaires, including all of the ones that have signed onto The Giving Pledge.

  • Bezos still hasn’t signed onto the charitable giving campaign started by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett.
  • He also hasn’t yet set a target amount to give away during his lifetime or provided concrete details about how it’ll be spent (unlike his ex-wife, MacKenzie Scott).
  • Bezos also hasn’t said how much will go to climate or what exactly it will fund.
  • So far, he’s committed to giving $10 billion (which rounds out to a mere 8% of his current net worth) to the Bezos Earth Fund, which will be given away over a 10-year period.
  • Some groups that have already received grants from the Bezos Earth Fund include Big Green organizations like National Resources Defense Council and World Resources Institute (where Steer used to be president).
  • Environmental justice organizations like WE ACT and international conservation groups have also received funds, though the grants have generally been smaller.

Meanwhile, Amazon’s climate track record has been spotty at best. The company committed to reaching net zero by 2040, but its carbon footprint grew by 18% in 2021. And much of the company’s recent climate commitments only came after a major push on the part of activist employees rather than being led by, well, leadership.

— Michelle Ma

Hot links

It’s a long road to get copper from mine to EV, and this story shows every bump along the way. (Buckle up!)

The U.S. and China are talking about climate again. After months of silence, the world’s two biggest emitters agreed at the G20 meeting to open bilateral talks. TBD if it brings climate negotiations in Egypt to a fruitful conclusion.

France will cover parking lots with solar panels. New legislation could turn car parks into power-generating gold mines, with up to 11 gigawatts of capacity, which could power millions of homes.

Magnets could change the nuclear fusion game. Recently published research found that magnets could juice attempts to create more power than scientists put into the process.

Not fair: New EV loan companies say buyers with conventional loans to buy electric are getting a raw deal — and offer alternatives that factor in the incentives and gas savings.

Global carbon market talks at COP27 are off to a rough start, reportedly stalled by technical details. (And this isn’t the first time the market has gotten caught in the weeds.)

A message from Conga

Amid current economic uncertainty, every business is moving to a stage where we need to do more with less through improved efficiency and automations. When you move to a life cycle management solution, your organization gains the predictability that it needs all the time, and especially right now.

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