Globally, we are facing the greatest challenge humanity has seen: To limit the planet’s temperature rise to 1.5 degrees. To achieve this, we should be producing less carbon than we take out of the atmosphere by the second half of the century. The World Energy Outlook Report by the IEA reported 2021 had the second-largest annual CO2 emission rise in history.
The time is now for greater ambition and faster action towards the transition to net zero. This is good for business too. As we meet and surpass our emission goals, organisations can improve efficiency, create new jobs, minimise waste and gain innovative new business value. According to a study from Microsoft and Dr Chris Brauer, Goldsmiths, University of London, 62 percent of business leaders expect their organisation to be carbon-neutral by 2035. However, only 41 percent of UK organisations are currently on track to meet the government’s targets for net zero emissions by 2050.
[msce_cta layout=”image_center” align=”center” linktype=”blue” imageurl=”https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/industry/blog/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2022/10/windmills.png” linkurl=”https://info.microsoft.com/UK-SUSTN-CNTNT-FY22-10Oct-27-Accelerating-the-journey-to-net-zero-AID-3036270-SRGCM5247_LP01-Registration—Form-in-Body.html” linkscreenreadertext=”A wind farm. Renewables are important as part of a sustainability strategy.” linktext=”ACCELERATING THE JOURNEY TO NET ZERO” imageid=”65494″ ][/msce_cta]
Therefore, I am proud of Microsoft being the Strategic Technology Partner and Principal Sponsor at the 27th UN Climate Change Conference (COP27) taking place in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. As a Strategic Principal Sponsor, we are joining forces with governments, organisations and communities to define net zero, measure progress, and build carbon markets that can deliver a just, prosperous future for everyone on the planet.
This is a global issue that needs a global response. To be successful, we need to understand these key factors:
Changes to infrastructure
PwC estimates that £40 billion per year needs to be invested into new low carbon and digital infrastructure over the next 10 years to meet the UK’s net zero ambition. Global CO2 emissions rose 6 percent in 2021 despite the large growth of renewable power generation. This is due to the rise in coal burning from adverse weather and energy market conditions.
Energy infrastructure needs to enable greater decentralisation while the government should support the roll out of green technology such as charging facilities. Industries should look to optimise energy efficiency by adopting a more advanced IT system:
Management of something is impossible if you are not measuring it. The world needs to simplify and streamline its carbon accounting and management, including data collection, digitisation and optimisation. Automating this analysis and sharing this data is essential to businesses, organisations and governments if we are going to achieve the robust reductions we need to by 2030 and remain below 1.5 degrees. Microsoft is building a Planetary Computer to address this need for better data:
We need to leverage new and unknown technologies to help our progress towards net zero. This includes creating advanced batteries, carbon capture, utilisation and storage, fuel alternatives, bioenergy and decarbonising building materials:
New business models
There’s no doubt climate change poses risks to many industries. The increase of adverse weather, for example, affects crop growth, interrupts supply chains or even prevents people from getting to work. Therefore, organisations need to shift to circular business models, to build resiliency and reduce emissions.
At the same time, organisations must look at new and innovative ways to democratise the access of new technology such as solar panels, heat pumps and electric cars to customers.
The world needs financial and human investment across the economy. Money and jobs must flow into carbon reduction and removal markets. Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) assets are growing upward of 15 percent annually. As more organisations are tying ESG criteria into their values and evaluations, more work needs to be done to support initiatives that help our collective net zero goals.
As organisations implement innovative technology, or job roles change over time, they need to support their people with developing new skills and ensure they invest in a skilling culture to attract and retain talent:
How we’ve been supporting net zero goals
See our sustainability journey so far: 1.3M metric tons of carbon removed, 20 water replenishment projects funded, 60K metric tons of waste diverted from landfill, 10 petabytes of environmental data available.
Since announcing our own sustainability goals in 2020, we’ve been focussing on reducing waste, improving water access and defining the technology that will help everyone achieve these goals. We have also taken an innovative and exciting approach to helping our customers and partners reach net zero.
To decarbonise at pace, Rolls-Royce is using Microsoft Azure to process, model and interrogate flight data. These insights are used to improve the performance of plane engines and drive sustainability.
Recycleye is revolutionising the waste management industry by automating the detection of everything on a waste management facility’s conveyor belt and identifying it in granular detail, improving recycling.
Anglian Water is helping its customers love every drop with a smart metering scheme that leverages data. While empowering customers to adapt their own behaviour, Anglian Water can use the data to identify leaks, manage supply and reduce water waste.
SSE Renewables is protecting the ecosystems surrounding their sustainable energy assets by using AI to monitor and protect puffins.
Taking meaningful action towards net zero
COP27 is a place for everyone to unite for positive change. We aim to continue helping people, governments and organisations to better understand the transformative potential of technology to help solve many of the complex climate challenges we face.
Building for a sustainable future
We know that to achieve real, global net zero, every organisation needs to reduce emissions as much as possible and physically remove the rest. 64 percent of UK business leaders say cutting their carbon footprint is part of their organisation’s sustainability strategy. However, only 17 percent have implemented a detailed programme for mapping emissions and less than half monitor them. Our study, Accelerating the journey to net zero, shares practical tips and guidance on how UK organisations can accelerate their sustainability progress.
COP27 is a timely reminder that our work has just begun. But it also shows us that sustainability, when engrained into organisational goals and values, brings innovative new ideas to life. At the same time, it optimises the work we do, and creates a stronger brighter future for all.
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About the author
Musidora joined the Microsoft UK Senior Leadership Team in February 2022 as Chief Sustainability Officer. She is accountable for driving sustainability outcomes for our customers, partners and internally. Prior to that, Musidora spent three years at Salesforce setting up and leading the Energy and Utilities Go to Market. She has extensive experience of the technology industry across hardware, consulting and software sales, over the past twenty years.
She featured at number 3 in the top 100 global sustainability leaders for 2022 in Sustainability Magazine, was named one of the top 100 female future leaders in 2020 by INvolve and Yahoo Finance UK, and was included in Kindness & Leadership’s Rising Star list for 2020.
Musidora is passionate about D&I and particularly in supporting more women in the STEM industries. She is an active coach, mentor and sponsor both inside and outside of the industry.