Can we trust capitalism to solve climate change?

At TC Sessions: Climate 2022 last week, we tackled an age-old question: Are corporations really that bad?

Your answer may change depending on what side of the bed you wake up on any given morning and whether you believe Amazon is currently trying to quash a grassroots workers movement. Some have a more positive perspective, at least when it comes to climate-related matters.

On TechCrunch’s Found podcast, the co-founder and CEO of carbon accounting firm Persefoni, Kentaro Kawamori, said that climate change was caused by capitalism — and that capitalism will solve it.

“Capitalism created the climate crisis because we wanted cheap, reliable access,” Kawamori elaborated on our stage. “So the way that capitalism solves this is to take the market demand that’s coming for greener products.”

We know that large corporations have an outsized impact on climate change, so by Kawamori’s logic, corporations must be held responsible for reversing their destruction. One report from 2017 found that just 100 companies are responsible for 71% of global emissions.

We want corporations to do better, but it’s not so easy to understand how they can best accomplish that. Air travel, for instance, makes up 9% to 12% of transportation emissions in the U.S., and the airline JetBlue has committed to reaching net-zero by 2040. But even if JetBlue threw its bottom line out the emergency exit and decided to propel all of its planes with sustainable aviation fuel tomorrow, it couldn’t — there’s simply not enough of it.

JetBlue Technology Ventures, the investment arm of the airline, is part of the company’s climate plan, investing in companies that aspire to make air travel more sustainable.