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While the 2030 deadline still seems a fairly long way off, investing in the future of the planet is like saving cash in a pension. You won’t see the benefit any time soon, so you need to start socking the money away well in advance. To hit that distant 2030 target, governments around the globe have figured out that 2020 is the key year to get their acts together in a coordinated, well organised assault on climate change.

The stakes for 2020 couldn’t be higher. Keeping global warming down to 1.5 degrees Celsius would make an enormous difference to hundreds of millions of people facing severe heatwaves. Failing to reduce carbon output by around 45% before 2030, however, would leave that goal virtually unreachable. As Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact founder, put it: “While the world can't be healed within the next few years, it may be fatally wounded by negligence until 2020.”

This is the backdrop and timetable against which the current drive toward sustainability and cleantech is set. In the UK, parliament set out an ambitious set of environmental targets for itself, including:

  • Bringing down its carbon emissions by 34% and water consumption by 50%.
  • Lowering the weight of waste materials created by 30%.
  • Recycling 75% of waste.

In turn, UK businesses are working toward cleaner, more sustainable approaches and technologies. The conversation around energy, for example, is shifting away from fossil fuels toward solar, wind and geothermal power. Cleantech businesses, both start-ups and more established firms, are exploring innovative new systems from low-cost, high-efficiency photovoltaic capacitors to wind-harnessing “kite power”. Battery storage systems are being developed to make the best use of the energy being produced, reducing reliance on favourable conditions to meet peak demand periods. As home energy systems get “smarter”, the amount of valuable information suppliers are getting back about usage patterns is skyrocketing, leading to less waste and reduced risk of outages.

Consumers, too, are doing their part. There’s a growing awareness of the urgency of action on climate change, and its results aren’t limited to demonstrations and online petitions. Brands that show a serious commitment to sustainability are seeing a real growth in acceptance in the marketplace. We’re all trying to live a little cleaner these days, whether that means using energy-saving lightbulbs, recycling household waste or even installing solar panels in our homes. Sustainability is a strong message for businesses to send out, and that message is getting through. Energy consumed per person in the UK is already down by 25% since 2005 and household energy generation is beginning to find its feet.

Cleantech is very much on the map now – and it needs to be. We’re not going to change the world overnight. However, with determined, collaborative action at every level from individuals to governments, there’s still hope we can stop it from changing more than we can live with. The deadline for that commitment is has now arrived.