By Thomas O’Hagan, Managing Director, b4b Group

Writing last month, I put forward the argument that technology and digital solutions would provide many of the answers to the question of how we effectively tackle climate change.

Over the last fortnight, as coverage of the COP26 summit in Glasgow has dominated the airwaves and print media, technology themes were very much to the fore.

Among the more significant announcements at the conference was a pledge by more than 40 nations including those across the EU, the UK, United States and China to co-ordinate the introduction of clean technologies in a bid to drive down their costs.

Known as the Breakthrough Agenda, the plan will target five sectors, namely steel, road transport (in particular electric vehicles), agriculture, hydrogen and electricity.

By concentrating efforts on key areas, and products, it aims to improve economies of scale thereby reducing the initial cost for those seeking to adopt more sustainable practices.

We’ve already seen innovations such as solar panels or LED lighting reduce in cost significantly over recent years. This initiative seeks to widen that trend to other areas.

No matter the sector however, IT will play a major role in helping companies, and countries, realise the net zero goal.

COP26 also saw the announcement by Northern Ireland Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon of her plans to establish a new Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Taskforce.

She said the group formed part of her drive to decarbonise Northern Ireland with an aim to “help us deliver a modern, reliable public electric vehicle charging infrastructure to provide confidence to users of ultra-low emission vehicles and improving connectivity across the north.”

Certainly, this cannot be achieved without widespread investment in technological infrastructure, products and services such as smart charging technology or improved battery storage.

On a global scale, technology innovations are making a huge impact on CO2 emissions, from a machine built in Canada that is helping the concrete industry to reduce its carbon footprint by introducing recycled CO₂ into fresh concrete, to a Swiss manufactured solution that absorbs carbon from the atmosphere, storing it for use in food and carbonated drinks.

While the cost of entry to some more environmentally friendly solutions is still a barrier of adoption to many, there are small steps companies can take now to reduce their carbon footprint.

That could be taking the plunge and choosing electric vehicles for your fleet or investing in smart AI-enabled devices that can learn energy usage routines and adapt them accordingly.

There is a strong sense that we’re at a tipping point, that requires the general public, businesses, government and policy makers to work together to effect the changes required.

The consultation on a new Environment Strategy for Northern Ireland, launched last week – provided the final document lives up to the ambitions of campaigners – is another step in that direction.

Working with our own customers and partners, we are striving to create a more sustainable future and believe technology is paving the way to a greener world for us all.