Digitalization for climate change adaptation and mitigation

What role can technology, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things or digitalization play in applying sustainable solutions to address climate and environmental challenges? Obviously, there is no single answer to this question, but there are many experiences and knowledge to share that show that technology offers powerful resources to promote the creation of a more sustainable future.

This happened at the Vienna, tech for Green event, recently held in the Austrian capital, organized by Darwin's Circle in collaboration with Huawei. The event brought together institutional representatives and international companies, researchers and start-ups who discussed the need to act on environmental challenges and the role that technology can play in that process.

Eco-systems vs ego-systems

The participants in the various discussions of the day highlighted the need for collaboration to move from ego-systems to eco-systems. Given that climate change is a phenomenon and a global challenge, both the political leaders who participated in the event, as well as those from the world of business and research, stressed that cooperation is key to creating a sustainable future and that both governments, Communities, industries and research centers must work together to develop replicable sustainability strategies, apply them and successfully.

Likewise, they advocated the creation of networks of diverse scope – international, national and regional – that promote sustainable initiatives. “We must continue together on this path,” summarized Claudia Plakolm, State Secretary for Digitalization of the Austrian government, in her opening speech of the day. She also claimed “the responsibility of smaller countries to be at the forefront of the transformation of the economy and industry.”

In any case, as Chirine Etezadzdeh, president and founder of the German city research center SmarCity Institute, highlighted, “adaptation to climate change is necessary and we must prepare for an evolution that is predictable, with measures that also, in addition to informing, actively integrate to the citizens”.

Science and financing

For his part, Robert Gulla, president of the TU Wien research foundation, highlighted two crucial points, scientific research and its financing: «science is probably the only instrument we have to solve the world's problems. But, to develop innovations, basic research is necessary. And it is difficult to get financing. Therefore, although companies can make great progress in terms of R&D&I, their collaboration with universities and research centers is also very necessary. “Where very innovative start-ups also come from.”

Positive impact

The technology already has proven applications in adapting cities to climate change, creating infrastructure, rethinking business models, optimizing supply chains and production processes, etc. All of them can see their environmental impacts reduced thanks to ICTs.

An example was given by Radoslaw Kedzia, senior vice president of the European Region of Huawei, when mentioning in his speech the smart agriculture project developed together with the Austrian company DroneTech, with which, among other things, “in addition to improving yields per hectare of crops, 40% less phytosanitary products have been used. Hence his conviction that technology-based infrastructures have the capacity to generate a great positive impact. “Digitalization, he added, represents increased efficiency across all industries that critically reduces carbon emissions and increases the resilience of supply chains.”

For this reason, he added, “in business decisions you no longer have to choose between profits or being eco-friendly, because today that balance is possible and both can go together. “They are not opposites, but they can be combined and obtain both benefits.”

High resource consumption

However, a very clear area of ​​improvement was also highlighted: “AI consumes many energy, material and water resources,” highlighted Ana Paulo Nishio, director of Technical Cooperation and Industrial Development at UNIDO. technology itself can be more efficient. Furthermore, it should not serve to optimize the brown industry. We must ensure that technology helps and does not hinder the health of the planet,” she concluded.