The COP21 Convention held in Paris is now in the history books. For those of you who may not know what this annual event even is or have vague ideas about it having something to do with the climate, here is a bit of a primer:
In 1992, there was a large political response to climate change which coalesced into a group of member countries from the United Nations convening in Rio de Janeiro to discuss challenges and opportunities of a rapidly changing climate, pollution, and economics related to these and other topics. The Rio Convention produced the United Nation’s Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which provided a framework for processes and action to address rising greenhouse gas emissions and stem human contribution to catastrophic interference of the climate system. This resulted in a near-universal adoption of 195 member countries taking effect in March of 1994.
Since then (1995) the Conference of Parties (COP) has met annually to review the implementation of UNFCCC which have resulted in significant milestones and protocols towards the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. This included the Kyoto Protocol, the Montreal Action Plan, and the Durban Green Climate Fund to name a few. The recent Paris Climate Conference (COP21) was the first time that a legally binding framework of universal climate change action was produced to work to prevent global warming from rising 2˚C above pre-industrial levels in a joint effort to stem an irreversible global climate catastrophe. In a historic effort, every member party has signed on in agreement with no dissenters.
The most significant point of this resolution is for the first time the inclusion of developing countries and significant financial funding from developed countries and major greenhouse gas emitters to offset any economic impact of compliance by those looking to climb the global economic ladder. The challenge now is for the member countries, many of who look to fossil fuels as an economic driver to success, to ratify the resolution’s framework and agree to the terms on reduction and reporting. Not surprising is the political resistance in the United States where this may be a bigger hurdle than other major players.
So what does all this mean for the Information Communications Technology industry? Contract opportunities in intelligent building and power management systems for ICT scope of work. I have touched on this in many previous articles and with each passing month it becomes even clearer that the world economies are demanding action. In the United States, one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases is the built environment in cahoots with transportation and manufacturing. The ICT industry is poised to be leaders in working with building owners, contractors, and design professionals to reduce and manage the carbon footprint of buildings through intelligent control solutions and implementation of energy efficient technologies.
One prime example of this is in display technologies such as laser projection and LED displays that are more operationally efficient that previous generations. This is akin to the automobile manufacturing industry realizing the future of electric vehicles and working with other technology sectors to make that the norm. They have taken this on as a result of consumer demand and government increases in vehicle efficiency requirements. We have also as a result of this seen public shaming (Volkswagen) of companies that don’t toe the line.
Government agencies continue to squeeze emissions through tighter regulations in the US and even more so abroad. Private sector companies are innovating in fantastic ways to increase capabilities of power storage, delivery, and efficiency. Examples of this can be seen where the construction industry has had to take notice with giants such as The Prince of Wales’ Corporate Leaders Group announcing their commitment to achieving a Net-Zero energy use for all new facilities and renovations by 2030. This coincides with the United States Architecture 2030 Challenge which continues to make significant strides in reaching its goals (although not as aggressively as Europe) Skanska and Bouyges Construction have allocated major resources to the development of sustainable building technologies. This is coupled with Microsoft, Apple, Google and Phillips all joining in to provide serious capital investment in next generation technology solutions to reduce carbon emissions.
It seems like everyone around the world is joining the cause with a significant recognition of the challenges ahead for not just the wealthiest countries but those who are emerging. Current ICT industry companies can and should be a major player in this process otherwise we will be left in the dust as new, ecologically forward thinking companies will surely replace us.