COP26 in Glasgow marked a step forward in global efforts to address climate change, with countries committing to ending coal investments and scaling up renewable energy sources.
However, questions have already been raised about what businesses and the UK government need to do in 2022 to deliver these commitments.
Without significant action this year, we can wave the pledges made at COP26 goodbye. The UK government has already committed to cutting emissions by 78% compared with 1990 levels by 2035, with all electricity coming from renewable energy sources. But what needs to happen this year to enact impactful change and keep our climate goals alive?
Moixa’s founder Simon Daniel shared his thoughts on the key elements businesses and the government need to deliver their climate goals.
How can technology help the UK meet its net zero emissions target faster?
Our climate is changing around us faster than predicted. From more frequent storms to unprecedented heatwaves and other extreme weather events, we’re feeling the impacts of this climate emergency. In order to slow the rate and limit the amount of global warming, countries worldwide must considerably reduce the emissions linked to human activities. Currently, global actions are adding around 11 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere each year, increasing the urgency of meeting the 1.5C warming target.
Technology, such as artificial intelligence (AI), plays a critical role in combating climate change, especially within the energy industry. To meet our net zero goals, we must develop new methods for more renewable energy to power our economies and decarbonise our energy supply. However, adding renewable energy to the grid does come with a greater risk of unpredictability. AI is a vital tool for counteracting the intermittent nature of renewable energy and enhancing the reliability and resiliency of the grid.
By making home batteries work smarter through AI, distributed energy resources (like smart batteries) can be aggregated into virtual power plants (VPPs) to deliver flexibility services and keep the grid in balance. By providing grid services, we will eventually be able to displace the fossil fuel plants that have historically met these needs, creating a new flexible energy system powered by renewable energy.
What else can be done to further reduce emissions and hold businesses accountable for their environmental impact?
Alongside AI technology, there needs to be a robust climate reporting system in place (such as Science Based Targets) to ensure that companies commit to their sustainability pledges and limit corporate greenwashing.
The UK became the first G20 country to make it mandatory for Britain’s largest businesses – public companies, banks and insurers with over 500 employees – to disclose their climate-related financial information from April 2022. Companies will need to consider the risks and opportunities they face due to climate change and set out their emission reduction plans and sustainability credentials.
This is definitely a critical step to support the greening of the UK economy. However, if businesses aren’t incentivised to commit to plans to cut their own emissions, then the government must step in to make this mandatory for all, especially for those with a larger carbon footprint. Businesses must put climate change at the heart of their activities and decision making, and a structured climate reporting system in place will be vital to achieving this.
How do we ensure we are all aligned in the move to greener energy?
At this year’s COP, there were several talks to end the use of oil and gas, with many countries worldwide supporting a new alliance to end new oil and gas extractions. However, senior leaders across the oil and gas sector were not directly present, which impacted the ability to commit to any real change.
In order to move to a more sustainable world, we need to have everyone at the table and recognise that everyone has a role to play in the fight against climate change. We must have more actionable conversations on the shift from our current energy system – which is overly reliant on fossil fuels – to a new system powered by renewable energy. We need to properly consider how – and if – gas and carbon capture can work in this transition.
It’s crucial that businesses and the government go beyond pledges and begin taking steps to prevent further damage to the planet. Focusing on technology and AI’s role in decarbonising our grid, implementing robust climate reporting and ensuring everyone has a voice in this fight will be vital to enacting the necessary change.