We won’t get a ‘freedom day’ from the climate crisis without technology
The technology has allowed us to lift the restrictions linked to the Covid crisis and will be crucial in gaining the upper hand over the other great crisis, climate change, says Mark Thomas.
While freedom reigns in Auckland, reflecting a takeover of the crisis of the moment, the Covid-19, we must get back much more to apply ourselves to getting out of the crisis of the time: climate change.
Technology has been an essential element both in helping Kiwis survive the constraints induced by Covid but also in better managing its impacts through new scans, social distance monitoring and even transport management.
Yet we have consumed 642 million tonnes of CO2 more than we should have on our climate change menu. Technology can help reset the diet.
The consultation just ended on the government’s Emissions Reduction Plan (ERP) which, when released in May 2022, will outlaw leadership for New Zealand to achieve more climate freedom.
But to get there, we’ll need a technology roadmap parallel to the final ERP road. This will help us make much greater progress by deploying existing or near-term climate technology solutions.
Importantly, it will also be necessary to strengthen New Zealand’s innovation, research and development pipeline to explore, test and commercialize future climate solutions.
New Zealand has leading technological expertise in fields as diverse as filmmaking, rockets and boating. It is also developing in energy, transport and agriculture, but as a country we still need to develop this technological capacity to have a New Zealand-wide impact.
In the 2021 Bloomberg Innovation Index on the state of technologically advanced countries, New Zealand was in the middle of the ranking at 25e. Almost every comparable small economy was in the top 10: Singapore (2sd), Switzerland (3e), Sweden (5e), Denmark (6e), Israel (7e), Finland (8e) and Netherlands (9e).
Our Climate Change Commission says we have all the technology we need to meet the emissions targets it recommends. If that’s true, obviously we’re not doing the best possible job using it.
The UK Climate Change Committee, its version of our Commission, set a better example. In their first report in 2010 , which we would now consider a technology roadmap, he said the UK government should set a climate technology strategy because the case for technological action on climate change was strong. He added that with sufficient funding, new policies and new ways of doing things, UK businesses should be able to take the lead in developing important new emissions reduction technologies.
And that’s how it happened. The UK government has introduced new rules to ensure competitive technology markets are in place, revised its regulatory approach and funded the development of technology, from basic research to pre-commercial testing. The UK’s carbon emissions have been falling faster than any other major developed country and it is now a world leader in climate change technology.
In 2013, the The Technology Executive Committee of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has recommended that countries prioritize technology, including the adoption of technology roadmaps, to advance mitigation and adaptation to climate change
They assessed 190 existing technology roadmaps in 21 countries. New Zealand was not included except in a study conducted by Australia on an aviation technology fuel roadmap. The study showed Technology roadmaps drive the development of technology activity by showing trends, goals, and actions in a structured way, and the approach to developing them also generally helps build strong consensus and can reduce lower value investments .
The strategic use of technology has been a key contributor in Denmark, Finland, Ireland and Switzerland, all of which have reduced their GHG emissions by at least 10% since 2000. New Zealand’s emissions increased 7% over the same period.
Denmark has prioritized four technological levers in its carbon-intensive industries: energy efficiency, electrification, the shift to green mobility and biogas.
Technology roadmaps have been used within industries, focusing in particular on the sectors most difficult to reduce. There are associated public policy mechanisms, including incentives to bring these programs to a competitive standard in the market.
Sweden was the top-ranked country in the European Union’s 2020 annual climate change performance index. The national roadmap it produced, implementing the European Action Plan for Environmental Technologies, focused on cataloging all existing technologies in an accessible database, linking technology investments to targets. performance and develop new financial tools to share risks in environmental technologies.
It had the added benefit of boosting the contribution of environmental technologies to the Swedish economy and increasing exports of environmental technologies.
In priority areas for New Zealand such as agriculture, a technology roadmap approach could include urine stain treatment, including nitrification inhibitors. Published results show 90 percent reductions in nitrous oxide. Other options include methane vaccines for ruminants and methanogen inhibitor feed supplements
In the field of energy, the development and implementation of regulations on smart chargers for electric vehicles minimize the impact on the peaks of the electrical network and therefore the cost for the consumer. An increased use of digital platforms would optimize the energy system and achieve more affordable electrification.
In transport, we could follow Finland and develop policy tools to encourage the use of technology to provide a more service-based transport system. Using the Mobility as a Service (MaaS) approach, we could create an easy to use platform where citizens can easily access and pay for all the ways you can get around a city in one place. , including those that promote more energy-efficient modes.
The buildings and construction roadmap produced for the Global Buildings Alliance highlights further opportunities to reduce emissions in buildings, construction, waste and other areas.
A recent study by PWC concluded that despite powerful new technologies such as AI, cloud, blockchain and advanced sensors enabling emission reduction solutions, overall levels of investment and innovation in technology climate have been insufficient to achieve the net zero transformation the world has signed. Up to.
Combined analyzes from Microsoft and PWC indicate that AI alone could, by 2030, reduce global emissions by the equivalent of those produced by Australia, Canada and Japan.
But we’ll need a technology roadmap to show us how to get to our equivalent of a Climate Freedom Day.