The United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP26, captured the world’s attention as our collective “last best chance” to identify and address the most serious consequences of climate change. As world leaders negotiated plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, energy transition and digital responsibility strategies received renewed attention. Among the many discussions at COP26, this article looks at debates around topics such as carbon neutrality, the carbon footprint of digital technology and corporate social responsibility.
What is COP26 and why is it important?
The Conference of the Parties (COP) of the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) was first held in Berlin in 1995. The main objective of the COP is the stabilization of the concentrations of Greenhouse Gases in the atmosphere to prevent risks in the climate system. Each year, the conference is held on the basis of a geographical rotation in one of the countries of the five regional groups of the United Nations: Asia-Pacific, Eastern Europe, Latin America-Caribbean, Wider Western Europe (WEOG) and Africa.
In 1997, at COP3 in Kyoto, countries signed the first binding commitment to reduce emissions (the Kyoto Protocol). The most important conference was COP21 in Paris in 2015. At this conference, all countries agreed to work together to limit the global temperature increase to well below 2 degrees, pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5°C. In addition, countries committed to creating a national plan outlining actions and programmes to reduce their emissions, known as the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) or “intended nationally determined contributions”. The update of the NDC, scheduled for 2020 at Cop26 in Glasgow, has been postponed to 2021 due to the pandemic.
COP26 : crisis and opportunities
The main difference between COP26 and its predecessors is the broader acceptance that the world is facing a climate crisis. The frequency and severity of forest fires, floods, storms, and droughts are visible signs that action is needed now, and that the next 10 years will be critical.
Failure to meet global climate commitments could result in an increase in greenhouse gas emissions of nearly one-fifth by 2030. International governments must increase their efforts. Only a 45% cut in emissions by that date, and a further shift to zero net carbon emissions by 2050, can stabilize temperatures.
COP26: the role of technology in the energy transition
However, in every crisis there is also an opportunity. Reshaping the world’s energy markets in a more renewable and sustainable direction represents the greatest opportunity for change. Other green solutions include electric vehicles, choosing better packaging, reducing the use of single-use plastics, buying local, minimizing the environmental impact of transportation and reducing airplane pollution. The common element in all these areas is technology.
From artificial intelligence (AI) to 5G, emerging digital technologies hold great promise for putting the planet on a path to carbon neutrality, noted International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Deputy Secretary – General Malcolm Johnson.
The big tech companies of COP26 and their CSR programs
As for corporate CSR programs, one objective seems to have been the main thread running through the big techs at COP26: demonstrating commitment to achieving carbon neutrality, which means reducing carbon emissions to zero.
Apple reiterated that it has reduced its carbon emissions by 40% in five years and the company has pledged to make all of its devices “net-zero climate impact” by 2030, as part of its Scope 3; Apple also presented ten new projects for the environment and the transition of 175 of its factories to renewable energy.
Amazon confirmed its willingness to invest via The Climate Pledge Fund, a venture capital of at least two billion dollars, in “low carbon” startups.
Even Google, which some time ago displayed a “carbon neutral” flag since 2007, has mostly reaffirmed this year at the United Nations Climate Change Conference its engagement to collaborate with partners committed to the climate: Alphabet’s goal for 2030 is, in fact, to achieve and maintain zero net emissions across the entire supply chain.
However, it seems that it is primarily Microsoft that has committed not only to being completely carbon negative by 2030, but also to eliminating all direct and indirect carbon emissions produced since its founding in 1975 by 2050.
COP26 : highlights
Plans like these certainly show how big companies are aware of the relevance that issues like sustainability or climate change now have for a more aware and attentive generation of consumers, even when it comes to choosing what to buy. If – more pragmatically – what is done for the environment or to minimize the polluting impact of their activities is one of the criteria by which consumers choose one company and its products over another, “green” social responsibility plans are an excellent way to show their participation in the fight against climate change and their commitment to the energy transition.
In the context of the COP26, it is recommended to put forward solutions to support companies in accelerating their CSR policy. This is why the elow team is regularly looking for new measures to increase awareness and to reduce, singularly and collectively, the carbon footprint of the digital world. Download elow, the 2 in 1 solution to understand and reduce our digital carbon footprint, it is also a good way to participate in the energy transition and contribute in a positive way to the future of the planet.
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