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"Technology, collaboration, and innovation made 2020 not all bad", says Ignite Investments Partner

By Ignite Investments Partner, Yariv Cohen. Published in The New Times

In a few days, 2020 will come to its inevitable finish. Under the Covid cloud that reigned supreme, normal went out the window and instead, we got social distancing, months of lockdowns, economic downfalls, political disarray and vast uncertainty. But not all was bad. Throughout the year, I encouraged those of you reading to stay positive, and try and find the interesting challenges among the hardships. And while the year was undoubtedly challenging, extraordinary people, advanced technologies, global innovation, and vast collaboration were the building blocks for some positive points. Here are a few great things that happened during 2020.

Greenhouse Gas Emission was cut

While trying to contain the pandemic, governments across the globe administered vast lockdowns that kept billions of people at home. Polluting production plants were closed, roads were clear of cars, and the sky remained plane-free, leading to significant impacts on carbon-producing activities. In the US, Greenhouse gas emissions decreased by 9.2%, and went back to 1983 emission levels (!!). Across the EU, there was an 11% reduction.

According to BloombergNEF, the effects of the pandemic will still be meaningful in 2021, and emissions could still be 5% lower than 2019.

Globally, road transportation emissions fell by ~50% in April, and by December, it had fallen 10% year-on-year. Aviation emissions were down by 40%. Industrial activity was down by 30% in countries that forced extreme measures. The pandemic offered the world a reboot, propelling new measures and policies that could be taken to continue the trend of lowering emissions. Long-term change depends strictly on those policies, and 2020 showed world leaders and citizens that it can be done. We just need to get creative.

Renewable energy technology became the hottest investment trend

Crashing oil prices, Biden being elected as the US President, and new pledges for the Paris agreement are only some of the factors that established clean energy as the new investment trend for 2021, as it became increasingly clear for both public and private entities that long-term policies are more viable when focused on renewables.

For example, look at the International Renewable Energy Agency’s (IRENA) plan for energy transformation to limit global temperatures rise to below 2 degrees. The ambitious-yet-realistic would cost $19 trillion more than a business-as-usual approach. Sure, that is a lot of money, but the long term effects would yield benefits worth $50-142 trillion by 2050 and increase the world’s GDP by 2.4%. Taking these plans and offered initiatives under consideration, Clean Energy stocks were up nearly 100% in recent months, as global investors witnessed a shift from traditional fossil fuels to alternatives such as wind, solar, and hydrogen.

The volatility of the traditional energy sector was another accelerator, and the US election results present endless possibilities of stimulus and tax reductions for the renewable sector. Large scale alternative energy projects make financial sense now more than ever and this is likely to increase due to the declining cost of renewable energy and the many new technologies that are under development. Thanks to this growing trend and changing global policies, Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) estimates that between now and 2050, 77% of investments in new power generation will be in renewables. Now that is a great reason to be hopeful.

Africa is finally free from the wild Poliovirus

In August, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that Nigeria, the last country in Africa to suffer from wild polio, has finally eradicated the virus. Spreading from person to person, usually through contaminated water, wild polio can lead to paralysis or death by attacking the nervous system. The “Kick Polio Out of Africa” initiative that was launched in 1996 by Nelson Mandela has finally reached its happy ending, with over 95% of Africans now Immuned.

And it was not an easy journey. Nigeria’s Borno state, the epicenter of the Boko Haram insurrection was the last place to be reached with vaccines, with frontline workers navigating areas of conflict such as Lake Chad by boat. “This is a momentous milestone for Africa, said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. Now future generations of African children can live free of wild polio.”

Covid vaccines were developed at an unprecedented pace

It took over 20 years of development to create a successful Polio vaccine, 9 years for the Measles vaccine to be established, and 4 years for the Mumps vaccine, the fastest one to be developed to date. In under a year of research, development, and trials, Covid vaccines are already here, with countries around the world already administrating different jabs. There are many reasons for the unprecedented quick response of the biological sector; Global collaboration was very influential, technological and biological advancements definitely set the tone, and accessible investment schemes did their part in funding what is usually a difficult financial process.

This was a challenging year for all of us, from world leaders to the last of their citizens, with personal and global hardships awaiting at every turn. But with every hardship came a reason for future optimism. Not only for returning to our beloved “normal”, pre-Covid reality, but for a better, more advanced, and more sustainable future, one that relies on global collaboration, technology, and innovation. I believe the combination of the three is definitely a reason for optimism. Happy 2021!

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