This year, more than ever, everyone has seen the climate crisis take hold – from fires, floods and extreme weather. The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change only further confirmed our fears. Their global and unequivocal consensus exemplifies the severe consequences we face if the narrow window to avert a rise in temperature of more than 1.5°C is not grasped immediately.
Solutions are required at a systemic level to transition the real economy and the lives of millions. It’s easy to be pessimistic. The challenges surrounding the climate crisis and the impacts of a changing climate are daunting, but there are reasons to be cautiously optimistic.
Technology has often been blamed for contributing to higher CO2 emissions – and not without cause. As tech has become embedded in all parts of the economy, it has contributed 2-3% of global emissions. This must be addressed – and in fact, to show its public commitment to working towards a zero-carbon economy, 40% of the global tech sector has signed up to the Race to Zero, the campaign that rallies leadership from businesses and regions to unlock sustainable growth.
However, the whole sector is responsible for making sure that we are focusing on the climate emergency and a further 60% is yet to commit to the Race to Zero – they need to sign up now. It is imperative that all technology businesses lead by example and set robust and stretching climate targets to look at what other transformations are needed, whether that is redesigning business models, changing supply chains or innovative solutions.
That is not always an easy undertaking and that is why, earlier this year, TechUK published a climate action guidance for SMEs to help take sustainable action.
Nonetheless, a net-zero economy would not be possible without tech innovation. Every day, developments in digital technologies are pushing the boundaries of what is possible to drive positive and sustainable change.
Quantum computing – a potentially revolutionary computational technology – is a prime example. From creating new materials to discovering new pharmaceutical drugs, its positive impact on society as a whole knows no limits – but nowhere will its impact be more important than in combating climate change.
We are already seeing a shift to devices powered by renewable energy over fossil fuels, and as this transition continues, batteries will increasingly become a major part of our lives. However, today’s batteries lack the energy density for long journeys and are too expensive for long-duration energy storage. IBM and Daimler are currently using quantum computing to discover next-generation batteries that will enable a breakthrough in energy density.
That is just one of many examples. Other technological innovations, such as Hummingbird Technology’s use of artificial intelligence to enable regenerative agriculture, and The Land App’s use of geospatial technology to create a future that fosters a thriving natural environment, sit on the cusp of a tech green revolution.
It is certain that digital technology will underpin the just transition to a zero-carbon economy and the question concerns the ability of society to accelerate and enable this contribution so that we can achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.
The tech sector is inherently innovative and with the science setting out so clearly what needs to change, we must work together. If you are using digital innovations to build your pathway to net-zero, join TechUK’s members to help us deliver a better future for our planet.