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Marrying Data and Digitalisation to Drive Green Change

Michael Psaila
June 21, 2021
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Climate change, biodiversity loss, overconsumption in materials and growing inequality are all systematic global crises that humanity is endangering its very existence with.

Fundamentally, economies are a collection of social rules and norms that alter behaviours based on good or bad performances. At this point in time, most of our economies are and have been incentivising overconsumption for a long, long time. It is only now that world leaders have finally realised that a rapid, intense change is very much needed. Due to interconnection, the aforementioned crises cannot be tackled in isolation and it is dangerous to think that our economies cannot adapt to such a change. Our economies are what they are at this point in time because that is how they have evolved to operate.

A green economy prioritises the health of people and the planet and sees these entities as interconnected. It means:

  • Solar and wind power – not fossil fuels
  • Better public transport and electric vehicles – not petrol and diesel ones
  • Protecting nature and having a circular economy – not a single use throw-away culture.

It would mean massive investment in renewables, housing and transport and rolling out training programs to skill people up for new jobs in all of these areas. This wouldn’t just be good for the planet… it would also be good for the economy. A major investment like this could create hundreds of thousands of jobs worldwide and now with the oil and gas industries deep in trouble because renewables are the cheapest way to generate electricity, switching to solar and wind power is simply a win-win situation providing both jobs and clean energy.

One thing that Covid-19 has shown us is that in order to look after ourselves, we must look after our planet. The climate emergency is already having devastating consequences for all life on Earth, in particular for the most vulnerable and those who have contributed least to its destruction.

Green Business

A lot of people might think that in order to recover from the crisis of the pandemic, what governments need to do is become more frugal and tighten the financial belt and therefore introduce cuts to spending. Austerity, frugality policies and slashing of public spending simply works against economic recovery. That will only negatively affect public services and the most vulnerable in society.

The European commission’s roadmap for making the European economy more sustainable will be acting as the driver of change that European governments across can look up to. With the ambitious target of making the EU climate neutral by the year 2050, every sector of the European economy will have to be addressed: Greening transport, supporting more resilient food chains , decarbonising energy generation and promoting resource efficiency in manufacturing and construction – and this is no easy challenge.

What is definitely needed is a Green Recovery Plan that will create thousands of jobs and open the doors for new monetary opportunities. Maltese ministers have been on the forefront of this talk claiming that since business models are evolving in light of this new vision, the workforce will be re-skilled to adapt to this change. Maltese SMEs can make sure they reflect new trends by using their flexibility as consumption patterns keep shifting towards more sustainable and green products.

A successful transition to climate neutrality will depend on the capacity of Europe to bring innovation to the table, leveraging digital technologies as key enablers. Harnessing such technologies could bring entirely new ways of solving environmental problems and at the same time will likely contribute to profound economic and social change. Together we have to treat the tech sector as part of the solution rather than part of the problem and this is where the marriage between governmental bodies and private agencies will be at its most profound.

Can governments do this in isolation ? The answer is no. Governments can definitely incentivise and lead the cultural shift  but at the end of the day, it has to be a collective effort from all bodies. NGOs, industry experts, business owners and marketers must all come together in a joint effort to drive this cultural change. If now isn’t the right time to launch aggressive campaigns showcasing the dire need of a collective, rapid change – whilst people are re-evaluating their lives and are coming to terms with the importance of being sustainable – then it will never be the right time to do so.

Big Data

Up until now – never have we experienced such an overhaul in data generation. Big data is the technology that is allowing an analysis of all this generation of information, and with it are we learning how to develop new solutions and advances. Applying big data to environmental protection is also helping to optimise efficiency in the energy sector, to make businesses more sustainable and to create smart cities – which the UN says that by 2030 two thirds of the world’s population will be concentrated in.

There are so many initiatives how Big data can help governments develop smarter, more efficient ways of sustaining the environment:

Devices that monitor all sorts of pollution
Collection of data on air quality, noise levels and road conditions
Public Sentiment Trackers
GPS Sensors to better understand recycling journeys
Knowledge in how to optimise energy management and resource use
Dashboarding with real time developments
Reduction in emissions from vehicle fleets by improved routing systems
Crisis Mappers

Big data applied to the environment aims to achieve a better world for everyone and has already become a powerful tool for monitoring and controlling sustainable development.