How This Venice Entrepreneur Raised $140 Million to Combat Climate Change

Forget Glasgow, California has a champion of its own and his name is Brendan Wallace.

If you followed any of the scary reports from the COP26 international climate change conference in Glasgow, Scotland — attended by President Biden, climate envoy John Kerry, Speaker Pelosi (with AOC in tow), a number of other US Congresspeople and Senators, British PM Boris Johnson, Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg — you know that efforts to curtail greenhouse gases that cause climate change are being stepped up all over the world. Scientists, expert and advocates are all ringing the alarm that it’s now or never when it comes to the global climate crisis.

On November 10, the United Nations released a draft of the accord it’s drawing up in Glasgow in terms of how to cut planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions. It includes phasing out the culprits: coal, and subsidies that go to oil and gas production. In the best of all worlds, the UN hopes the phasing out of greenhouse gases will be “around midcentury.” But that means everyone needs to start now.

Until then, brace yourselves for more heat waves, wildfires, droughts, floods and species extinction. However, one Los Angeles man has launched a campaign to stop greenhouse gases: he’s raising money for the retraining of the real estate industry –- particularly in L.A. — to use the newest technology to cut out greenhouse gases in construction.

Brendan Wallace is a West Side venture capitalist/tech entrepreneur/environmentalist and co-founder of Venice based company Fifth Wall, the largest venture capital firm in the country focused on climate technology. Early this fall, he and Fifth Wall launched a campaign: they put up a new bright blue, red and pink mural at 6 Rose Avenue. With 60’s and 70’s style graphics, its message is upbeat– but at the same time emphasizes the dire needs on earth. Designed by hometown artist Kent Yoshimura, the text reads: “What planet are you on? Choose earth.”  It portrays a human standing on Mars about to take a leap of faith back towards earth. At the bottom, there’s a suggestion: “Invest in climate technology.”

It may have fun graphics, but it’s nothing but serious. “We got our start right there on Abbott Kinney –1410 Abbot Kinney,” Wallace told LAMag. “So it made sense to put it right here. Venice is an area with a lot of street art. I think if you can use art to convey an important message, all the better.”

It was back in 2016, Wallace began to put the pieces together for a futuristic fund that would be both financially viable and marry real estate with new environmental tech. In five years, the Fifth Wall Climate Tech Fund has already raised over $140 million.

Staying local is not the only reason Wallace chose the mural’s locale, its second after Manhattan. “L.A. has a huge real estate market –- a core industry here with never ending sprawl. When it comes to environmentalism and climate change, L.A.’s ahead of the curve already.”

Having followed the Glasgow conference closely, he sees “a real opportunity here to start decarbonizing the real estate industry.”

Wallace continued: “People don’t realize the real estate industry — the biggest industry in this country — is the environmental culprit hiding in plain sight. It’s overwhelmingly responsible for the climate crisis: 40 percent of all CO2 emissions are generated by it. It’s the single biggest lever we can turn now to mitigate climate crises at home.”

“Over the last decade, the whole U.S. real estate industry has invested 94 million into climate technology, which is shockingly low for what’s needed. Fifth Wall has invested $140 million out of its $500 million fund to be invested in climate tech. Right now, all kinds of real estate clean up programs are being created by scientists, engineers, and tech experts all over the world.”

“What we’re doing with this mural campaign is drawing attention to the fact that real estate is this really important lever to which WE — the world — can pull to contain climate change. Paper straws, electric cars, all good. But the decisions we make about energy now and what it takes to drive to the office or home, how energy efficient homes or offices are, how buildings are built –– those decisions are even more impactful for mitigating climate change.”

“What Fifth Wall wants to do was draw the AWARENESS of and about the real estate industry – not just the magnitude, but the potential of how much work there is to make real change. The hardest thing to do is get these companies to do something they’ve never done before. But we’re getting more and more big real estate companies onboard, so whatever ‘pressure’ we’ve created seems to be working.”

Have outer space cowboys Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson been in touch yet?

“Well, we haven’t heard from them,” said Wallace. “We just really want to draw attention: for people to see them, stop, think, consider. Should we really be contemplating building new real estate on other planets when we could be saving the environment by building in a new way here on earth?”

Well, Bezos does have a house in L.A. Maybe he’ll be driving by in his Honda Accord.

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