The environmental clock is ticking, and the opportunity to drive down carbon emissions and stay under the critical threshold of 1.5°C is getting slimmer. Governments across the globe are racing to find ways to address climate change and help save the planet. Noticeably, many of the initiatives being rolled out to tackle urgent environmental issues leverage technological innovations to reduce waste, optimise the use of resources and develop alternative sources of energy. Furthermore, policies and laws are being enacted across the Asia Pacific region to help enable the implementation and adoption of green technologies.
For instance, Singapore’s Green Plan fast-tracked the adoption of efficient power generation technologies and increased deployment of solar photovoltaic systems to achieve the goal of reducing Emissions Intensity by 36 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. Indonesia seeks to reduce emissions and curb deforestation by improving food production and farming practices using tools and technology to support low carbon agriculture. This initiative is part of Indonesia’s Long-Term Strategy for Low Carbon and Climate Resilience 2050, which aims to contribute to global sustainability goals while working towards the achievement of national development objectives. In India, as part of National Action Plan on Climate Change, the government aims to have 20 gigawatts of solar power accessible by 2022.
With the growing focus on the role of technology in mitigating the impact of climate change, we asked our colleagues across the region to share their thoughts on the role technology plays in helping save the planet.
Here’s what Team Priority has to say:
Yam Keera, Thailand The greenhouse effect and climate change did not start in the current era and evidence shows that the burning of fossil fuel from factories at the height of industrialisation has contributed so much to the degradation of our environment. However, with the growing movements and more voices raising their concerns, shining light on environmental issues, businesses and governments around the globe are working together to protect and save the environment.
Technology can certainly help us save the planet. With the advancements in technology, if we do it the right way, we can achieve our sustainability goals. We are currently working with clients that promote sustainability and provide solutions that can help society. I think that technology is not the issue but the people behind it. There is a need to place more investments in technology that can help reverse years of damage to the environment. It is time for governments and businesses to work together to help achieve our sustainability goals.
Matthew Kurian, Malaysia
I recently came across a study comparing the greenhouse gas (GHG) emission produced in manufacturing electric vehicles (EV) versus fuel-powered cars. Before it even rolls off the assembly line, an electric vehicle is estimated to have generated 65 percent more emissions than traditional cars due to the lithium-ion battery used to power the engine. However, as cars breach the 5,000-mile mark through to the disposal of the vehicle, tables start to turn as fuel-powered cars start releasing more pollutants in the air compared to electric-powered vehicles.
So, how do we solve the sustainability problem? Is this a problem that we even want to solve? When green options such as electric vehicles open up a new set of environmental issues, then where are we in this journey? I think the road to the solution will be paved by responsible consumption and moderation in the use of resources which ties back to the role of people in solving the environmental issues that we have created.
Shefali Petiwala, India
Technology has changed how we work and interact with each other. At the core of every innovation is development, but we also need to see if the development is sustainable in the long run and if we are moving in the right direction in supporting all these digital technologies.
While technology can solve many issues, it can also create many problems. Due to the pandemic, we have been forced to rely on digital technologies to support many of our activities. We are shopping, banking, interacting and entertaining ourselves online, generating huge amounts of data, which needs to be housed in data centres. To support digital technologies and all the world’s internet users, these energy-guzzling data centres generate tonnes of GHG, which makes us all responsible for releasing more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year.
With the acceleration of digital transformation and the continued increase in smartphone penetration, we really cannot regress and stop digital innovation from happening. However, we really need to pay attention to how data centres are developed- starting from construction to power consumption. Green data centres should be mandatory moving forward.
Jennifer Gill, Thailand
Yes, we have the technology, but it really depends on the people whether we are willing to take the steps and be educated on ways we can save the planet. There are two main ways technology is making an impact on the environment – pollution and depletion of natural resources. With contaminated air and water, pollution can damage the health of people and livestock, and upset the balance of the ecosystem. On the other hand, we are churning out products and using natural resources faster than they can be created or grown, thus depleting the earth’s natural resources.
According to research, the global CO2 emissions have increased from 2.5 percent to 3.7 percent from 2013 to 2018 due to an increase in usage of digital technologies. As we drive innovation, governments should adopt more green technologies and sustainable ways to lessen the impact of technology on the environment. To help save the planet, we need to be mindful of how we consume resources and how we manage our wastes.
Aparna Saravanan, Singapore
One aspect of digital technology that I want to focus on is the impact of social media on people’s lives. The addictive nature of social media platforms is drawing people in to post and share details of their lives, and spend hours online just scrolling through their feeds. For every thumbs-up and approval received for social media posts, users get a dopamine surge in the brain, which is a hormone responsible for feelings of pleasure, satisfaction and motivation.
This dependence on social media platforms can be very damaging to people’s mental health, especially when they start comparing their own lives with what they see on their social media feeds.
We should also remember that the time we spend online contributes to the internet’s overall carbon footprint. Parents and guardians should be mindful of how children access these technologies as this is going to shape their lives and their perception of things moving forward. We should know where to draw the line when it comes to the use of digital technology, especially when it is already damaging the planet, our mental health and overall well-being.
Jewel Catubag, Philippines
According to the UN’s Global E-waste Monitor 2020 report, e-waste is the world’s fastest-growing domestic waste stream, fuelled mainly by higher consumption rates of electric and electronic equipment, short life cycles, and few options for repair.
To keep pace with the changes and stay updated with the latest in digital technology, consumers are encouraged to upgrade and change devices regularly while their current devices are still functioning well, which leads to a cycle of unregulated consumption. This pattern of consumerism must stop if we want to help solve the world’s growing e-waste problem.
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