Digital Vision: COP26

Toward a Net Zero Future

A shared vision for the future

Nourdine Bihmane – Head of Growing Markets, Decarbonization and Marketing, Atos

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When COP26 was first announced, the expectation was that the lead-up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in 2020 would see a ‘race to net zero’. Then the pandemic hit, throwing many of these aspirations into confusion as countries responded to the most significant global health crisis in over a century. Yet despite this disruption, the push to combat climate change and future-proof economies has only intensified. As governments come to thinking in driving the post-pandemic recovery, tackling climate change and, crucially, accelerating digital transformation needs to be at the forefront.

The scale of the challenge

Achieving net zero requires fundamental transformation of our economies and industries, something that can only be achieved by deploying new technologies on an unprecedented scale. Digital tools have already upended many sectors by substituting carbon-intensive activity with virtual alternatives. Indeed, during the Covid-19 pandemic, it was these tools that not only sustained essential services and enabled millions to continue working, but also allowed many of us to reduce our carbon footprints at the same time. Technologies including AI, IoT and blockchain have the potential to unlock even greater efficiencies for individuals and businesses, delivering less waste, significantly reducing the use of resources, and cutting carbon emissions further.

By 2030, global carbon emissions must be cut in half; yet between 2009 and 2019, average emissions rose by 1.5% each year. Faced with this challenge, governments are legislating, investors are asking tougher questions, and society is demanding action. Raising ambitions is the easy part; the aim now should be to apply the technologies to deliver on these goals. There is a broad consensus around the need to act and an increasingly common vision for the type of future we can create through net zero.

Looking beyond COP26

It is humanity’s genius for innovation which has time and time again come to its rescue. This was the case with the Information Technology Revolution at the end of the last century and the Industrial Revolution before that: human ingenuity unlocked possibilities for growth and a better quality of life in the face of challenges that at first seemed insurmountable. This is the spirit in which we should approach the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, setting out a shared vision for how we can use our innate capacity to invent and create – not just to overcome climate change, but to build a safer, fairer and more sustainable world for future generations.

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