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Next 1,000 unicorns will be in climate tech

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Larry Fink, chairman and CEO of BlackRock.

Martin Simon | CNBC

Larry Fink, the CEO and Chairman of Blackrock, sees addressing climate change as a massive potential for new businesses.

“It is my belief that the next 1,000 unicorns — companies that have a market valuation over a billion dollars — won’t be a search engine, won’t be a media company, they’ll be businesses developing green hydrogen, green agriculture, green steel and green cement,” Fink said Monday at the Middle East Green Initiative Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Climate change is a business opportunity, Fink said, because addressing it will require that virtually every segment of industry will have to be reinvented.

“Getting to net zero carbon emissions by 2050 is going to require a revolution in the production of everything we produce, and a revolution in everything we consume. The process of creating fuel, food and construction materials, with all the needs that we have as humanity, it all has to be reinvented,” Fink said. “And that’s going to require a large amount of investment, a large amount of ingenuity and a large amount of innovation.”

Fink has been publicly advocating the importance of considering sustainability when making finance decisions in his highly anticipated annual letters to CEOs.

Fink said Monday he sees demand from investors to put their money in climate technology.

“As an asset manager at the nexus between owners of capital and companies and assets we invest in on behalf of them, we see this playing out every day,” Fink said. “Asset owners are looking for investment opportunities that will come from this historic transition to net zero.”

Recently, Bill Gates publicly articulated his belief that there will be a significant amount of money made in climate tech. Gates, who is best known for co-founding Microsoft, invests in clean tech through his firm Breakthrough Energy Ventures, which also counts Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Michael Bloomberg and Ray Dalio as investors.

“There will be eight Teslas, 10 Teslas,” Gates said in an interview that aired Wednesday as part of the virtual SOSV Climate Tech Summit. “There will be, you know, Microsoft, Google, Amazon-type companies that come out of this space.”

In his talk in Saudi Arabia on Monday, Fink discussed the importance of capital being invested in green technology equitably around the globe.

Currently, climate friendly technologies are, generally speaking, more expensive than their carbon emitting counterparts.

“The price differences is sometimes described as a green premium. For example, sustainable aviation fuel costs at least 140% more than kerosene,” Fink said.

Organizations like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank “must play a critical role” in helping to ensure capital is invested in green climate technology in developing nations, Fink said.

“Investments in low carbon projects in emerging markets will need to be more than a trillion dollars a year — more than six times the current rate of investments of about $150 billion a year,” Fink said.

To bring down the “green premium” and make clean technologies more affordable will require significant capital investments, especially and including in the developing world, Fink said.

Also, Fink said BlackRock would not divest from hydrocarbon companies.

“We are supportive of the hydrocarbon companies. And we believe they will be part of the solution of this green revolution of this new green technology,” Fink said.

In particular, hydrocarbon companies are “at the forefront of developing methods of carbon capture, and storage, which will play a major role in removing the carbon emissions we will continue to produce,” Fink said.

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