2021 may be the year of the gods

Mira Inbar
ArcTern Ventures
Published in
3 min readJan 11, 2021

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2020 may be called the year of the plague. That year, the covid pandemic caused 1.6 million deaths and infected another 500 million people worldwide, with millions of survivors suffering from the long-term effects of the illness. Many more people suffered the daily emotional and financial duress of sheltering in place.

2020 may also be called the year when the world burned. That year began in the Black Summer of Australia in which 46 million acres were burned by wildfires. During the northern summer, the Amazon and the American West burned at the same time. My family spent over thirty days indoors as the air quality from the California fires choked our lungs. We grappled with the daily fear of potentially evacuating our home.

2020, however, was also the year when we developed and began to deploy a vaccine in record time. Last week, my 97-year-old grandmother texted me a photo of herself getting vaccinated in her nursing home in Israel. This is the direct result of focused funding from governments and a sign of how far science has come. It turns out that despite all the pain and destruction that 2020 represented, last year may also be the watershed moment when we realized that we can galvanize global resources and alter our behavior for a larger common good. The pandemic showed us that by dedicating our minds and resources we can solve very large global problems with record speed.

Kicking off 2021, I believe that this will be the year that is a turning point on climate change and here’s why.

  • Money is flowing. Last year, $16B of venture money, including from our own ArcTern Ventures, funded climate technologies. Many more funds were launched to fund green infrastructure and late-stage equity. And that’s not to mention the more than fifty climate focused SPACs which will be taking companies public in 2021.
  • Climate policy is back. Climate change is one of President-elect Biden’s top four priorities backed by an aggressive policy mandate to invest in green infrastructure. Biden has nominated political appointees, like Jennifer Granholm and Gina McCarthy, who have the breadth of knowledge, hands-on experience and political agility to navigate our institutions and drive meaningful climate policy.
  • The energy incumbents have changed. Last year, Exxon, previously one of the world’s biggest companies and bedrock of the carbon economy, was dropped from the S&P 500. Meanwhile, Tesla, Sunrun, Enphase, SolarEdge, and others enter 2021 in a position to be formidable acquirers of new technology and shapers of markets and policy. This fundamentally changes the trajectory and pace by which new climate technologies can scale.
  • Net zero planning is a reality. Last year, there was a plethora of announcements aimed at reaching net-zero carbon by mid-century. They came from corporations, including big emitters like oil & gas and steel companies, and major economies like China. While imperfect, for the first time, we have broad based plans for avoiding catastrophic climate change on the timescale we need.

Stewart Brand wrote, “We are as gods. We might as well get good at it.” Climate change is a rising cacophony that will overwhelm our society’s capacity to deal with it and like the pandemic, it gets worse the longer it is avoided. We, the gods of the Anthropocene, are finally in a position to be more conscientious and exacting stewards. We may very well look back on 2021 as the year when we finally started to get good at it.

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Mira Inbar
ArcTern Ventures

I’m a climate investor with a passion for solving our biggest environmental challenges. Mother, explorer, and sidewalk chalk enthusiast.