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3 takeaways from COP28 from Houston biotech, sustainability founder

Fresh from COP28, Houston innovator Moji Karimi shared his biggest observations from the event. Photo courtesy of Digital Wildcatters

Before he even had a chance to recover from the jetlag, Moji Karimi was thinking about his biggest takeaways from 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference or Conference of the Parties, more commonly known as COP28.

Karimi, CEO and co-founder of Cemvita, a biotech company with sustainable solutions for the energy transition, joined the Houston Innovators Podcast this week to discuss what his biggest takeaways were.

"It was a pretty amazing experience," Karimi says, comparing the event to how CERAWeek has evolved to really have a strong presence in its innovation-focused track called Agora. "This year you had a massive section for innovation and sustainability. I think that will become a theme in COP29 and beyond to bring entrepreneurs, investors, and more participating in the event."

Karimi's three big observations are outlined below, as is the full podcast with him sharing more about Cemvita's growth this year.


Expanding the environmental footprint

One of the big things Karimi observed was that there seems to be a rising conversation about not only how carbon emissions are effecting climate change, but that companies and countries need to look more broadly at their environmental impacts.

Specifically, Karimi learned about the new framework Task Force on Nature-Related Financial Disclosures (TNFD), an addition to Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), which was introduced a few years back.

"TNFD is the new framework to capture non-carbon emissions-related aspects of an impact on the environment, such as biodiversity loss," he says.

Language has evolved to reflect this shift too, Karimi says, referencing "nature-positive tech" and "nature tech." He says he feels like Europe has led the way so far, but in the next year or two the conversations will come to the United States.

"Some of this is driven by COP30 being in Brazil and being focused on biodiversity," he adds.

A major focus on nuclear

Karimi says he saw a lot of support for nuclear energy, which can lower the cost and carbon intensity of power. Personally, Karimi is wondering what happens if and win nuclear is better adapted, solving the current challenges the power industries face.

"What I'm interested in is so many other climate tech applications that are enabled once you have low-cost, and low-carbon power from nuclear energy. That will be interesting to watch," he says.

Actionism, not activism

Lastly, Karimi says he saw a huge push toward action, not simply advocacy. The emphasis on "actionism" included activations for COP28 attendees to share what actions could be taken now.

"The point was to all come together, no matter where you come from, and focus on what actions you can take," he says. "It was interesting to bring people together in a different way. We'll see how that translates into actions from here on."


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A View From HETI

Ten energy tech companies in Houston are among 111 organizations to receive up to $250,000 in vouchers from the DOE's Office of Technology Transitions, totaling $9.8 million in funding. Photo via Getty Images

Ten Houston-area companies will receive vouchers from the Department of Energy's latest round of funding to support the adoption of clean energy tech.

The companies are among 111 organizations to receive up to $250,000 in vouchers from the DOE's Office of Technology Transitions, totaling $9.8 million in funding, according to a release from the department.

The voucher program is in collaboration with the Offices of Clean Energy Demonstrations (OCED), Fossil Energy and Carbon Management (FECM), and Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). It is funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

“It takes a breadth of tools and expertise to bring an innovative technology from research and development to deployment,” Vanessa Z. Chan, DOE Chief Commercialization Officer and Director of the Office of Technology Transitions, says in a statement. “The Voucher Program will pair 111 clean energy solutions with the support they need from expert voucher providers to help usher new technologies to market.”

In addition to the funding, the program seeks to help small businesses and non-traditional organizations gain access to testing facilities and third-party expertise.

The vouchers come in five different opportunities that focus on different areas of business growth and support:

  • Voucher Opportunity 1 (VO1) - Pre-Demonstration Commercialization Support
  • Voucher Opportunity 2 (VO2) - Performance Validation, Modeling, and Certification Support
  • Voucher Opportunity 3 (VO3) - Clean Energy Demonstration Project Siting/Permitting Support
  • Voucher Opportunity 4 (VO4) - Commercialization Support (for companies with a functional technology prototype)
  • Voucher Opportunity 5 (VO5) - Commercialization Support (for developers, including for-profit firms, that are working to commercialize a prototype that fits a specific technology vertical of interest for DOE)

The 10 Houston-area companies to receive funding, their voucher type and projects include:

  • Terradote Inc. with Big Blue Technologies Inc. (VO2): Full ISO-Compliant Life Cycle Assessment for Clean Energy Technologies
  • Solugen Inc. and Encina with ACTion Battery Technologies L.L.C. and Frontline Waste Holding LLC (Vo2): Barracuda Virtual Reactor Simulation, Validation and Testing
  • Flow Safe with Concept Group LLC and Precision Fluid Control (VO2): Durability Testing of Hydrogen Components, Materials, and Storage Systems
  • Percheron Power LLC (VO4): Fundraising Support
  • Capwell Services Inc. with Banyu Carbon Inc. (VO5): Field Testing Support for Validation of Novel Resource Sustainability Technologies
  • Syzygy Plasmonics with Ample Carbon PBC, Terraform Industries, Lydian Labs Inc. and Vycarb Inc. (VO5): Rapid Life Cycle Assessment for Carbon Management or Resource Sustainability Technologies
  • Solidec Inc. with GreenFire Energy (VO5): LCA Calculator Tool for Carbon Management or Resource Sustainability Technologies
  • Encino Environmental Services LLC with Wood Cache, Completion Corp and Carbon Lockdown (VO5): Realtime Above/Underground Gas Monitoring Reporting and Verification, Including Cloud Connectivity for Remote Sites
  • Mati Carbon PBC with Ebb Carbon Inc. (VO5): Community Benefits Assessment and Environmental Justice

Other Texas-based companies to receive funding included Molecular Rebar Design LLC and Talus Renewables from Austin, Deep Anchor Solutions from College Station, and ACTion Battery Technologies LLC from Wichita Falls.

Last October, the DOE also awarded the Houston area more than $2 million for projects that improve energy efficiency and infrastructure in the region.

In December, its Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations also selected a Houston power company for a commercial-scale carbon capture and storage project cost-sharing agreement.

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