So, almost a year on from COP26, what's really changed as we prepare for COP27?
Contrary to the commitments to reduce emissions made in Glasgow last year, greenhouse gas emissions in the first quarter of 2022 increased by 6% compared to 2021. There may have been crucial progress by governments to save lives, but there is still much more to be done. Governments mustn’t only promise and set targets at annual conferences — we need to pursue meaningful change between COPs.
Many continue to ask, what’s slowing us down? What’s preventing us from throwing all our might into climate action together? The solutions are there, but governments need to be empowered to harness them. These solutions stem from the innovation found in the booming startup ecosystem. When governments employ GovTech by adopting the digital strategies that these startups create, not only can they work constructively on climate resilience, but they can also be better leaders, engaging communities and the rest of the world in positive climate action. The cost of not doing so is not just an uninhabitable world for the next generation, but irreparable damage to the trust between us and our governments.
With drought and more extreme weather on the way, there is no better time than now for governments and startups to talk about GovTech and share knowledge to accelerate the world’s progress to net zero.
Protecting us against drought
Governments would need to mitigate water shortages amidst the latest drought crisis. More than 100 French municipalities have no running drinking water. Spain’s water reserves are at an all-time low of 40% and are falling by 1.5% a week. German trees are watered from swimming pools.
At this time of crisis, Danish startup Aguardio created an easy-to-use sensor that helps homeowners monitor their water usage. Aguardio’s sensors assisted hotels in reducing up to a fifth of their water usage. Innovation like this is invaluable to governments, which need expertise and tech to save every drop of water they could.
Optimising energy use
The extreme weather events caused by climate change put Europe’s power grids and our energy supply at risk. Governments need to optimise energy to prevent deaths this winter, moreover, Europe’s overall energy usage also has to go down to solve the root cause of climate change.
R8tech from Estonia figured out that by adding artificial intelligence on top of existing energy automation systems, users can better control their heating, ventilation, and cooling (HVAC) systems. Not only can R8tech’s products provide greater indoor comfort, but they can also take into account energy prices whilst reducing carbon emissions by up to 30%. Startup innovation like this provides the answers to the present risks governments are facing.
Showing governments where the action is needed
To coordinate a crisis response, governments will need to have access to resources that show where they are happening and which places need help most.
EarthBlox from Scotland created a “LEGO for Earth Observation” that policymakers can view as “hotspots” of environmental change. They can then use the same platform to simulate solutions, targeting local stress points that put livelihoods and property at risk. Expertise and products from startups like EarthBlox can help governments coordinate more precise and localised responses.
Responding to long-term threats precisely
Not only do governments need to see where carbon emissions are hurting communities, but they also need to understand where these emissions are coming from.
Swedish startup ClimateView created ClimateOS, a workflow platform that helps city governments address the most polluting activities happening in cities. By modelling where a city is producing the most greenhouse gases and visualising how individual climate policies change the effectiveness of other policies, city governments can precisely plan out their pathway to net zero based on local conditions.
As Europe tries to build smart cities, effective digital infrastructure for city management like ClimateOS has never been more valuable.
Engaging everyone in the climate fight
Governments must not act alone in advancing to a net-zero future. Everyone without exception must get involved. Climate action can only work if every community and every household joins in. But too often, project planners fail to consult indigenous and disenfranchised communities. They end up diagnosing problems and creating solutions based on partial information. It means climate action is not tailored to the needs of those communities, further marginalising them when what we need is a unified crisis response.
Irys from San Antonio, Texas introduced the use of an AI-driven interface that makes public participation in climate action more accessible. By enabling communities to easily provide feedback, participate in surveys, and view resources, it bridges the divide between government initiatives and local needs.
If this divide is allowed to widen, we are sabotaging our own crisis response and eroding the trust of communities by not listening. By then, governments won’t be just tackling a climate crisis — governments will be tackling a crisis of confidence. It is high time we inspired genuine action beyond the boardrooms of European capitals. By embracing innovation and bolstering purposeful leadership, we can break down the barriers and kickstart meaningful change.
It’s time to make change happen
Climate action isn’t just an annual matter for COPs. We need to create dialogue and make public sector innovation a reality if we are to be in a better position for COP27, COP28, and beyond. Governments need to access the solutions out there; businesses need to know where opportunities lie in the public sector.
Join us on 1st November at the GovTech Summit at the Hague to find out how to put GovTech front and centre of your climate crisis response and create a better future for all.