UN goes big on tech and climate

  • techUK techUK
    Tuesday24Sep 2019

    A big theme of the UN General Assembly is how tech can be used to address environmental issues

With the UN General Assembly underway, climate and environmental issues are at the top of the agenda, with the UN Climate Action Summit setting out the case. The climate strike of last week was billed as the biggest collective protest the planet has ever seen and so many countries have woken up to the growing public concerns.

The focus (rightly) will be on the action governments can take as it will require deeper commitments, stronger legislation, strong market signals and political will to transition to a net zero carbon economy, though there does seem to be a real realisation that digital technologies can have a huge role to play.

Perhaps the best example of this is from our own government. The UK has just announced £1 billion (from the international aid budget) to develop and test new technology for addressing climate change in the developing world. This money, called ‘the Ayrton Fund’ is a serious chunk of money and will go on affordable renewable energy, battery storage at scale, electric alternatives to firewood, electric vehicles and emissions reduction in intensive industries. Obviously, we need the details of how this fund will work in practice and we look forward to learning more from DFID and BEIS.

A further £220m was announced to be spent on biodiversity projects, which will go on conservation of some of the world’s most critically endangered species. Most of the funds will go on efforts to fight the illegal wildlife trade, an issue tech is fantastically well equipped to help with if it gets the partnerships right. From AI at the border to identify species, to using analytics to design anti-poaching patrols or IoT for monitoring animals, tech can make a real difference.

The UN Climate Action Summit also saw the launch of ‘Principles for Responsible Banking’ where 130 banks holding a collecting $47 trillion in assets pledged to align their businesses to the goals set out in the Paris Agreement and SDGs, with searching milestones and targets for these institutions.

Closer to home the sector is also making commitments, with Amazon pledging to become carbon neutral, Salesforce launching a new ‘Sustainability Cloud’ for environmental data and scores of companies made fresh commitments to adopting Science Based Targets to align their operations to the Paris Agreement. The gaming sector has established UN Climate Action Summit ‘Play for the Planet’ initiative which sees the gaming sector commit to improving energy efficiency, adopt more circular design and interestingly ‘nudge’ gamers towards making more sustainable choices and explore how VR can help raise awareness of climate. Amazon has just pledged to become carbon neutral in its operations and more firms are looking at how to adopt science-based targets for carbon emissions reduction.

Given how often tech gets a bashing it is refreshing to hear how technology can “make the world a better place” and we look forward to working with members, government and others on how to best leverage digital solutions for these pressing issues.

If you’re a techUK member and are interested in climate change, environment or sustainability or want to hear about or new Climate Strategy and Resilience Council, get in touch via the details below.  The deadline for nominations for the Council is Friday.


  • Craig Melson

    Craig Melson

    Programme Manager | Digital Devices, Consumer Electronics, Export Controls and Environment and Compliance
    T 020 7331 2172

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