Tech at the Heart of UK Pavillion at COP23 Climate Talks

The next wave of climate talks (called COP23) are currently taking place in Germany and for the first time a small island nation (Fiji) is presiding over them.

The talks won’t produce any key new documents or commitments – rather they lay the foundations for major talks next year in Poland which will tackle some of the big issues that will help make the Paris Agreement operable: how can we ensure that country pledges match what’s needed to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees? How can these pledges be accountable and transparent?

The focus in Bonn will undoubtedly be on the US position after President Trump announced the US will withdraw from the Paris agreement, despite the fact the USA remains the only country in the world not aligned to the agreement following news this week that Syria has pledged to be a signatory.

But these headlines do a disservice to all the activities on the fringes and margins of the talks. Experts from academia, Governments, NGOs and industry are all there looking at climate science, the role of cities in fighting climate change, climate finance and more.

The UK Government, led by BEIS, will be keen to showcase and reconfirm their commitment to international leadership on climate action. It is running a pavilion (Stand A.04 for those in Bonn) with a ten page programme of activities, workshops and talks at COP23 and what is really exciting for us is the high profile of tech throughout the agenda. There are discussions on how blockchain can make carbon markets more transparent, smart energy systems, clean-tech (in all its guises) and a lot on the potential of IoT and smart city tech in carbon reductions. There are talks on how energy grids can be smarter, how investors can get returns on these innovations and discussions on the link between climate change, health and development.

However emissions reductions alone will never be enough of a reason to get widescale transformative tech into towns, factories and homes and it’s a sign of progress that BEIS recognise this in its recent Clean Growth Strategy, which sets out the UK’s plan to meet the country’s carbon targets out to 2030. Linking emissions reduction to business efficiency and productivity, energy supply security, cost savings, smarter services and comfort in the home is what will help to overcome investment barriers in smart or low-carbon technologies

The tech sector has a huge role to play in spelling out how digital transformation will go beyond carbon reduction and help customers save money, deliver better services and help business become leaner and more efficient. Furthermore the sector needs to educate policy makers and users on how tech never intended for emissions reduction can deliver them as a secondary objective.

The Clean Growth Strategy gives the UK a lot to talk about in Bonn and we look forward to seeing what comes out of COP23. There is a significant prize to be won if we get it right – not only limiting catastrophic warming, but also getting a big slice of the multi trillion dollar clean-tech market.

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