Alex Bardell, Chair of the BCS Green IT Specialist Group and an independent sustainability technology consultant, explores COP27’s initial themes and concerns.

COP27 is very different from COP26. This year, there are no huddles of world leaders thrashing out deals. That was last year. Now, it is time to deliver – which is why the event kicked off by focusing on how to finance climate change mitigation. How are we going to fund and manage essential projects?

The financial burden, as a proportion of GDP, will fall most heavily on low-income countries. Which means that developed nations are needed to transfer funds and manage projects. Currently the infrastructure is not in place to manage such large transfers, to the extent that the quantity of local currency does not even exist. Similarly, the governance and financial control systems are not in place. Digital technology needs to fill this gap by providing the tools and settlement systems needed to deliver and manage funds.

Focus on the finance

Such is its scale, funding climate change mitigation is beyond the financial means of the World Bank and national governments. This means the private sector is, increasingly, being eyed as a source of funding. But, for private finance to start investing in places where it currently does not – at a cost that makes projects viable – a digital governance model needs to mitigate risk and ensure projects are completed.

Things are however changing, particularly for start-ups who are looking to raise funds. New investment rules in the EU, and elsewhere, are including sustainability requirements. As a minimum, being able to report Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions and having a carbon reduction plan are musts.

Being able to explain how a project delivers against net zero pathways and how it might deliver sustainability is going to be a big plus for any business case.

Focus on the science

Science then became a focus for the latter part of COP27’s first week. Many communities are, we learned from international speakers, already feeling climate change. We also saw examples of how technology can help.

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For example, weather monitoring and fast, effective warning systems are needed. These can help ensure that vulnerable communities are out of harm’s way should an extreme weather event threaten to occur.

In the UK, the MET office, with its modelling system could help predict events. Mobile phone networks and digital apps can then warn communities.

To date, digital has not been included in the COP road map to net zero. One possible reason is that, up to now, the COP gatherings have been about achieving agreement – this was Glasgow’s objective. Now, we are transitioning into the delivery phase. As such, the role of technology has become more important and, many at COP27, understand that net zero cannot be achieved unless we put the IT industry on a delivery footing.