COP26: How data and technology can facilitate climate action

November 3, 2021

For the first time, finance is a vital part of the COP26 climate summit, highlighting the role finance plays in supporting the economy towards net zero. Finextra, an attendee of COP6, listened to the ‘Green Horizon Summit’ by the Green Finance Institute, a daily insight running throughout the conference.

Expert industry speakers from technology, climate change and finance contributed to the latest discussions. These representatives explore how the private sector can support an accelerated move towards net-zero and how crucial reliable data and green technology are to tackle climate change.

After the first day of COP26, several climate-focused commitments were announced by governments. These measures included:

-A plan to eliminate deforestation by 2030 and funding valued at $3 billion for green investments in developing economies.
-Rockefeller and Ikea foundations launched a Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet, with a commitment of $10 billion towards renewables.
-India pledged to reach net-zero by 2070.
-Brazil will reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030.
-The UK and India will finance a 140-nation renewable solar grid.

Despite the promises, many agree that more needs to be done beyond public finance. Private green finance opportunities need to increase to ensure capital flows go towards climate and nature-focused investments.

Starting the discussions, representatives highlighted the necessity to facilitate collaboration between the private and public sectors and data was considered the driving force. Industry experts explained that the public and private sectors must work together, and that is why data is so important. We have the resources available, but we need to ensure we use them properly.

The UK Government made it compulsory for large businesses to display data following the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), becoming the first G20 nation to announce this step into law. With a diverse number of the existing standard, TCFD will be important in enabling stakeholders to compare overall performance and commitments.

Being carbon neutral since 2007, technology leader Google highlighted its support for TCFD last year. In 2020, Google announced new targets regarding climate action, including becoming the first major business to operate on continuous carbon-free energy by 2030.

The work by google indicates the important role of technology in the transition to net-zero. How can these techniques be applied to other businesses? With more data and the rise of data analytics, businesses can explore the entire supply chain. It is simpler to comprehend the impact of assets. Technology can also be applied to benefit the customer. Last year, Google committed to supporting a billion users in making more sustainable and smarter decisions. For example, when searching for flights, customers can now view the carbon footprint of various flight options.

Other industry experts voice these methods, suggesting that people need the information to make informed decisions. The challenge is now scaling these solutions to tackle the climate crisis we face. We need to incorporate this knowledge with data analysis. If we focus on data, the rest will follow, in terms of generating consistency of reporting and accountability for informed decisions.

Implementing AI to many of these problems shows big potential. AI systems can help facilitate change in businesses worldwide but requires sourcing reliable and consistent data and collaborating closely with other partners. Decision making works most effectively if people are capable of discussing the problems in an informed manner. So, while information is viewed as useful, information concerning what we can all do is transformational.

Finance and technology were highlighted as two vital areas in ensuring our climate goals are met at the last conference. So, what is required from the COP26 climate summit? Firstly, sufficient money must be invested to enable and facilitate the changes required. Secondly, banks need clear information on their decision-making process, in terms of who to support and who to ignore. This entire process is driven by data, so all stakeholders, whether it be an NGO or a customer, remain confident in the entire process.

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