I have been a Miami resident and a climate startup investor for around a decade. And yet until recently these two things have not intersected much at all. However, as time goes by it becomes increasingly obvious to me that Miami will become a climate-tech hub. It will be good for the city, the state, the US, and the world. Why?
- One of very few climates in advanced economies comparable to that of most of the next megacities of the world which will make-or-break our fight to control global emissions. In 1950, ~1/3 of the global population was in cities. Today this figure is slightly north of 50%, and the UN predicts it will be close to 70% by 2030. 90% of the growth will come in cities with mostly hot and often humid climates, in places such as India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and many African countries. Typically, the way new (green or otherwise) technologies are deployed is they start in more advanced economies and then, proven and cost-engineered, are spread to the rest of the world. Thus, technologies developed and deployed in the Western world that will be installed in growing mega-cities will be a key tool in the global fight against climate change. Developing the necessary solutions — green buildings, energy storage and distribution, clean supply chains, etc. — in climates resembling the future mega-cities is a huge advantage, as for example the approaches to increasing building efficiency and the sources, supply and demand of renewable energy are quite different in temperate climates vs. in hot and humid climates.
- “Purple” state where climate investing can be kept distinct from partisanship and thus garner broad-based support. Unlike other leading economies, the topic of sustainability has become highly politicized in the US. Some experts attribute this to the fact that Al Gore was the first high-profile person sounding the alarm very broadly, and thus it was associated with one political party at a time of extreme polarization in our country. In other leading economies with a very large spectrum of far-left to far-right leaning parties, the climate issue is just not a point of contention. To succeed in this battle, the US must make climate a non-partisan issue. To point to one example, NextEra Energy — a leading Florida-based utility — has built a very successful renewable energy business and multiplied its value 10-fold in the past decade with no agenda other than building a long-term profitable business. The climate challenge/opportunity is gargantuan and we cannot afford to fight it with only half of our national talent and resources. I recently finished Bono’s autobiography, “Surrender”. In it he discusses his activism efforts to get the US to forgive billions of debt accrued by the poorest countries in the world and to contribute huge sums of foreign aid in the fight to combat and treat AIDS in Africa. He realized that working across parties with those you might consider your “enemies” is essential if the goal is important enough, and that you must learn to find common ground — he said while detractors accused him of being in the “compromised middle”, he saw it as the “radical center”, and I fully subscribe to this viewpoint. In the case of climate action, I believe in Florida we can move the conversation to a science-based, market-oriented, and pragmatic implementation that gets everyone to rally into making the US a leader in the global economy of the next century.
- Geographically well located to act as a hub for Western world partnerships. Climate requires global, large-scale solutions. And the geopolitical realities of our time are creating an environment in which the leading Western countries must collaborate to emerge as leaders in the future economy. A presence on the East Coast of the USA is the easiest geographical location to effectively cover the entire USA including the very advanced NorCal climate-tech hubs all the way to the European continent which has a very strong climate culture and governmental/economic incentives to lead in the sustainable economy of the next century.
- Emergent tech-hub at this time should and will focus on the most critical investing themes of our time (climate, AI, etc.). Miami has recently benefited disproportionately from the dislocations initiated by the global pandemic of 2020. A city with a young and diverse population, it was already growing due to immigration from South America and other regions, as well as a business-friendly environment and other quality-of-life considerations. However, once the pandemic enabled remote work (for a few years at least), many more flocked to the Sunshine State. As we return to a new post-pandemic normal, Miami seems likely to retain an emergent tech-hub community that can thrive and succeed. Developing competencies in the newer fields of technology and those most suited to our advantages makes sense — this is why I believe Miami must focus on climate and AI, the biggest forces in the next wave of our economy and tech investing. In particular, Florida already has a competitive position in some “tough tech” areas such as space-tech and health-tech, and presence of important hardware-focused companies in the climate space such as NextEra, Blue Frontier, Carrier and a host of others.
- Already experienced and dealing with resiliency and adaptation efforts. Rising tides, increased number of ultra-high temperature days each year, and stronger and more frequent hurricanes are some of the impacts being felt by Floridians, which lead to tightening building codes, incentives to improve energy efficiency, and other forms of adaptation and mitigation. The Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact -which has been in place over a decade to coordinate climate mitigation and adaptation across county lines led one example effort via the issuance of the Miami Forever bond, a $400 million general obligation bond endorsed by City of Miami voters in 2017, of which nearly half the proceeds are directed towards reducing flooding risks and sea level rise mitigation. More recently, Opportunity Miami, an initiative launched by Miami-Dade’s Beacon Council has been put in place to put climate-tech atop the agenda and make the city a leader in this space. These demands and actions create an environment more conducive to green technology innovation and deployment.
- Access to oceans an important part of climate solutions. 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered by water, and the oceans hold almost all of the Earth’s water. This means the path to sustainability in resources must include smart use of the oceans (desalination, alkalinization, effective use of marine resources, etc.). Proximity to it thus gives us an advantage in developing this sector. Leading research institutions have been established here for decades and startup orgs such as Daniel Kleinman’s Seaworthy Collective are further pushing the charge locally.
- Entrepreneurial, diverse population. Miami has a very young (Median age of 40) and diverse (72% Hispanic, 14% Black and 11% White) population. Per Beacon Council, the population is highly educated, earns above the national average and the area has great infrastructure to become a hub (airports, railway and interstates highly accessible). As we build the economy of the future, we can expect diversity from the ground up and attract newcomers from across the globe.
Sustainability does not have to be tax on future generations — it can be the key to unlocking a more abundant, healthier, and resilient future.
The US must ensure it secures a leadership position in the future economy, and Miami is an excellent place to put another stake down in building a strong foundation.
Manos a la obra!