Global firm Subak funds NZ climate-focused research for first time

August 7, 2022 10:16 am

One of the recipients is Dunedin's The Good Rating which is working to rate the environmental impact of packaged supermarket products. [Photo Credit: RNZ]

Three New Zealand start-ups have received funding from a global climate action accelerator.

Subak funds climate-focused, data-focused projects and it’s the first time funding has been earmarked for projects in Aotearoa.

The recipients include data scientist Clive Pinfold who gathers real-time carbon emission data in the electricity sector and Dunedin’s The Good Rating which is working to rate the environmental impact of packaged supermarket products.

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The third recipient is Castlepoint-based Blue Carbon services which is researching the viability of using the ocean to sequester carbon.

Pinfold said New Zealand couldn’t achieve the necessary emission-reduction results if it relied on averaged national data that was at least two years old to inform investment and maintenance.

His Subak-funded project aimed to show how faster, more efficient and lower-cost emission reductions could be achieved with accurate data.

The Good Rating founder Kate Oktay said the not-for-profit wanted to give manufacturers and producers a commercial reason to change.

“Our goal is to be an antidote to greenwashing, so consumers can see which brands are sustainable, and more to the point, which are not. There is a groundswell of change right now.

“People don’t want to support products that cause climate change when there are so many that don’t. And surprisingly, that often doesn’t cost any more at the till.”

Blue Carbon founder Dr Robert Hickson said global warming was expected to cause the extinction of three out of five of the world’s current species, even with global emission reduction commitments.

“We think giant kelp is a potent natural tool for curbing this. Trees store carbon only in living organic matter, drawing CO2 down over 30 to 100 years,” Hickson said.

“Giant kelp, however, grows much faster than trees locking away carbon in both living and dead organic matter, profusely shedding organic matter into the ocean, continuously and indefinitely.”

Unlike fallen trees, which rapidly decay back into CO2, the carbon in kelp detritus that sinks into deep water sediments becomes locked up for hundreds to thousands of years.

“Because of this, a hectare of kelp can continue to draw down carbon virtually forever, instead of only three to 100 years.”

Subak funds projects from $22,000 to $165,000 as well as provides a curriculum of business, data and tech training with the aim of growing ideas into a sustainable business.