Digitalisation can drive the race to a healthier more resilient future

Businesses, investors and local leaders responsible for half the global GDP are committing to reach zero emissions as part of the recovery from Covid-19

Today, World Environment Day, hundreds of businesses are confirming and reaffirming their support for action to drive greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050 at the very latest – among them a number of big-name tech companies.

Digitalisation and technology innovation have been helping us navigate the Covid-19 crisis, enabling us to work and socialise remotely, track infections and order food and supplies like never before.

Similarly, the ICT sector has a unique role to play in forging a healthy, green economic recovery and helping society adapt to a warming world. Leading businesses understand that we must listen to the science in order to revive the economy, increase productivity and deliver job security. 

Look, for example, at Telefónica, owner of telecommunications brands including Movistar, O2 and Vivo in Europe and Latin America. It is committing today to reach net zero emissions in its main businesses by 2030 — two decades earlier than previously planned. Telefónica halved those emissions in 2019 and wants to remain relevant in a future green economy powered by digitalisation. 

It is one of the many businesses, investors, cities, regions, universities and countries joining the Race to Zero campaign today. Together, these commitments cover about half of the global GDP and a quarter of carbon emissions. We now aim to expand this alliance 10-fold, to cover 60 percent of GDP, by the time the UK hosts the United Nations’ COP26 climate summit in November 2021. 

In doing so, businesses, investors, mayors, and governors will be setting a benchmark on the ambition and innovation that national leaders must show as they come together to raise pledged contributions to the 2015 Paris climate agreement. 

Investing in decarbonisation and building climate resilience will help protect the economy for the longer term and create better jobs in the short term, as shown in a recent report by McKinsey

The European Commission recognises this. Its €750 billion proposed budget for 2021-2027 aims to boost jobs, growth, resilience, and environmental health by investing in the European Green Deal and digitalisation. The UK’s forthcoming stimulus package will hopefully follow a similar path, with a new job creation scheme focused on digital infrastructure and renewable energy, as reported by the Financial Times last week.

ICT has many great examples of sector leaders setting zero carbon goals and making us more resilient to the effects of climate change. It is switching to renewables (the sector provides the greatest new demand for renewable electricity supply), working with supply chain partners to decarbonise, and working to reduce e-waste. To have the best possible credentials for helping other sectors decarbonise and adapt to climate impacts, ICT must lead the way, raise its ambition to reach zero emissions as early as possible, to be credible as a solution provider for other sectors’ decarbonisation.

The world is now taking part in an unplanned transformation in response to a human tragedy. This pandemic has shown us that there are many things we can do, which were unthinkable just a few months ago. It has also shown how fragile our society is. We must be ready to change, so that the suffering from Covid-19 is not all in vain.

We are now on a race to zero emissions. In this race we all win, or we all lose. Join us.

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