Kidus Asfaw is co-founder and CEO of Kubik. His Africa-based startup transforms plastic waste into low-carbon construction materials that are cheaper and faster to build with than cement, offering a sustainable and speedy solution to housing shortages as Africa’s population grows.
What is the single most important action you think the public, or a specific company or government, needs to take in the next year to advance the climate agenda?
We need to prioritize the role of cities in advancing the climate agenda; 70% of us will be living in a city by 2050. The way we build, move, consume, and waste can only change if we enable cities to drive policies and innovations towards cleaner and economical ways of living. Africa provides the largest opportunity to drive such change. It is the fastest growing (and urbanizing) continent. If we invest, support municipalities and attract cleantech businesses towards this exciting continent, I believe some of the most globally relevant innovations will come from here.
What sustainability effort do you hope will gain popularity with the general public this year, and why?
Changing the way we build. Real estate contributes to 40% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Most of this has to do with arcane and polluting construction methods that typically use cement. Did you know if cement was a country it would be the third-largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world? This sector hasn’t changed much because economically competitive alternatives have not existed…until now. Scalable, cheaper, and cleaner building alternatives are racing to become a $1 trillion industry. The faster cities adopt these materials, the faster we decarbonize one of the highest polluting sectors in the world.
Where should climate activism go in the next year?
Climate activism needs a permanent seat in the boardroom. Companies, from startups to conglomerates, need to be kept honest on their potential to fight climate change. We are facing an existential crisis, and businesses have a critical role to play in averting a global catastrophe.
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