This article, originally published in February 2022, is part of a series in which OECD experts and thought leaders — from around the world and all parts of society — discuss and develop solutions now and for the future. Aiming to foster the fruitful exchange of expertise and perspectives across fields to help us rise to this critical challenge, opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the views of the OECD.
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In the last 12 months, we have observed a significant shift in the urgency behind the sustainability conversation—evidenced by its centrality to last year’s G7, G20 and of course COP26.
In working to address the seismic challenge of climate change, open dialogue and collaboration between industry, policymakers and stakeholders is essential to harness and nurture the kind of innovation that can support further digital transformations towards net zero.
Putting this into practice, I’m looking forward to the upcoming OECD Environment Ministerial taking place 30–31 March that will shine a spotlight on “aligning digital transitions with a sustainable, net-zero economy”, while focusing on how digitalisation can support environmental goals.
While there is not a “one-size-fits-all” solution to climate change, technology and digital innovation are important tools that can play a crucial role in supporting sustainable economic ambitions. One way in which this is particularly significant is driving down emissions. While the technology sector accounts for around 2% of global emissions, the solutions within are a key enabler to tackle the other 98%.
Over the years, there have been questions raised around the role of digitalisation in contributing to climate change. In reality, it holds the key to supporting sustainable policies, providing the foundations for a resilient global economy and harnessing tech-driven transformation for environmental progress. Through both human ingenuity and continuous technology evolution, in the future we can realise new ways to digitally reinvent energy, land use, waste, water, transportation and manufacturing, as well as operate buildings more efficiently. However, bringing this vision to reality requires a concerted, accelerated and collaborative effort across sectors and society.
While setting and working toward goals is important for individuals and companies, we are better together.
The race towards a net-zero economy
Many businesses are standing up and taking responsibility as the race to reach net zero continues. But it’s not a race with one winner—we are all running this together.
Making net zero a reality requires businesses to continue to evolve and work together to scale achievements. It’s a huge challenge. Digital innovation across key sectors, matched with a willingness to act, can help lead us towards a better tomorrow.
Technologies like Cloud, data analytics, edge computing, artificial intelligence and machine learning can all deliver significant impact in reducing emissions.
Net-zero commitments send a strong message to policymakers, investors and consumers about the importance of facing the crisis before us, and the need for urgency.
But we can’t stop at setting goals. Taking responsibility is the first step in an approach that will not only address current issues, but prepare us for a more sustainable future.
Working to mitigate our footprint, at Dell Technologies we have increased our electricity from renewable sources to 54%, on track for 75% by 2030 and 100% by 2040. We also met our previous goal to reduce operational emissions by 40% by 2020 and set a new, science-based goal to cut those emissions a further 50% by 2030.
While setting and working toward goals is important for individuals and companies, we are better together. The complexity and scale of issues like climate change limit what organisations can do on their own, making engagement critical. It’s important to recognise that technology is not a silver bullet for solving the climate crisis. It is a tool—one I believe we must embrace boldly and use to take action now.
Digital industry can drive development
There is no quick fix to the issues facing us today—and we are all learning as we go. Addressing operational emissions is just part of the picture. In our case, they represent only a small portion of our overall footprint.
At Dell Technologies, we are pushing the boundaries of sustainable operations, notably within personal computer design, through exploring what could be possible in the future with Concept Luna. This prototype is one example of how innovation can act as a standard-bearer for the industry. Concept Luna highlights how design can accelerate reuse of products and materials, reducing waste and emissions for the future. We encourage the technology sector to continue to lead the innovation, playing its part in reducing emissions and building a better, more sustainable world for all to flourish.
Find more in the OECD's Annual Climate Action Monitor Helping Countries Advance Towards Net Zero:
Also on the Forum Network: Net-zero Economy, Net Economic Benefits: The green future of skills, jobs and infrastructure
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