We felt it this summer and still experiencing it this boiling October. The planet is sending out multiple warning alerts for us to pump the brakes on emissions and reach carbon neutrality. But transitioning to the so-called net zero world by 2050 is a great challenge. Some consider that it might even be unrealistic because it requires a complete transformation of how we produce, consume, and move about, as well as a global investment of $2.7 trillion a year. How can emerging technologies help navigate this bumpy road to combat climate change effectively?
The Eisenhower principle is often said to be how we should organize our workload and priorities: The urgent are not important and the important are never urgent. But when talking about climate change the urgent and important are inextricably linked.
In July, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned that “the era of global boiling has arrived”. According to Berkely Earth, September 2023 was the hottest on record, since directly measured instrumental records began in 1850. The onset of El Niño conditions can make it even worse in 2024.
In this scenario, reducing emissions is the Gordian knot of the problem. And getting to net zero, a fundamental goal. At this point, it’s important to clarify that net zero doesn’t mean zero emissions -that would be pretty impossible- but getting to the point where the amount of greenhouse gases (GHGs) emitted into the atmosphere is balanced by the amount removed, either through natural processes like reforestation or by using technologies such as carbon capture and storage (CCS).
“As much as 30% of the carbon dioxide we emit from burning fossil fuels is absorbed by the upper layer of the ocean. But this raises the water’s acidity, and ocean acidification makes it harder for marine animals to build their shells”, explains Carlos Mandolesi, PMO Portfolio Manager and featured speaker at IOTSWC24.
“While the 30% absorption rate is significant, it is not sufficient on its own to achieve net zero emissions”, acknowledges this expert who thinks that a holistic approach that combines substantial emissions reductions, enhancing natural carbon sinks, adopting new technologies, and promoting sustainable practices and behaviors is necessary to reach the net zero goal and mitigate the impacts of climate change effectively.
Carles Ibáñez, Director of the Climate Change Line at Eurecat Technology Center, and Scientific Director of the Center on Climate Resilience in Catalonia echoes this sentiment. “It’s a priority to accelerate a more powerful transition to a reduction in gas emissions that can meet the Paris agreement”, he says. “It will be difficult, but acting slowly will complicate everything even further as temperatures will rocket. We must insist on the fact that the adaptation is inevitable but mitigation is indispensable”, he points out.
Admittedly, this means having the best technologies available to apply them to the industry, while encouraging or even forcing all the necessary changes. Among the most polluting industries are energy, transport, manufacturing, and construction, followed by agriculture, food retail, and fashion.
Many will think that changing the way we live is not plain sailing and that this possible change will take time and money. However, Carlos Mandolesi is still convinced that achieving net zero emissions is a realistic goal.
He particularly highlights the advancements in solar, wind, and hydroelectric power which have significantly increased their efficiency and affordability; the investments in energy storage technologies, like advanced batteries; the innovation in Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technologies that have the potential to capture CO2 emissions from industrial processes and power plants; the EV technology which is becoming more accessible and efficient; Smart grids, IoT devices, and automation technologies that are optimizing energy distribution and improving energy efficiency in homes and industries; Sustainable Agriculture Technologies; and Carbon Removal Technologies for actively removing CO2 from the atmosphere.
All these technologies, which will be showcased at IOTSWC24, open the door to real advancement in the fight against climate change. There’s no need to say they’re not a magic wand. They obviously need to be backed by a clear collaboration between nations and policy incentives accompanied by the promotion of a real behavioral change in consumer choices. Greenwashing is not allowed anymore.
In fact, last September, the European Union Parliament and Council reached a provisional agreement to ban greenwashing and improve consumer information on product durability.
“There is a growing number of companies taking the lead in the race toward climate neutrality. They are actively implementing significant changes to reduce emissions by adopting state-of-the-art technologies, restructuring their workflow, and transforming their supply chains. It’s worth noting that these initiatives have a ripple effect on other companies as well,” says the Director of the Climate Change Line at Eurecat Technology Center Carles Ibáñez.
“Certainly, there is still progress to be made, as there’s a significant demand from companies for credible credit compensation. Simultaneously, there’s a shortage of compensation projects, whether they focus on reforestation, sustainable agriculture, or other initiatives like wetlands and marine system restoration. These projects need to develop more robust certification mechanisms to accurately quantify carbon sequestration”, he concludes.
PO Portfolio Manager Carlos Mandolesi insists that while challenges remain, the potential for success in combating climate change is realistic when “continued innovation and substantial financial commitment in clean technologies, along with supportive policies and international cooperation are combined.”
Yet, in this area more than any other, the path is taken by walking, and not just by thinking about it. IOTSWC24 is an opportunity to be one step ahead.
By: Anna Solana