Tech must lead on carbon neutrality

This article is sponsored by Tencent.

Climate change is daunting, and the realities of what to expect are impossible to predict. But we know that building a future where we and future generations continue to thrive depends on our science, innovation, creativity and clear-headed optimism. 

As a key driver of innovation, efficiency and productivity, the tech industry must take a leading role in the fight against climate change. The successful navigation of the climate crisis necessitates the rapid and expansive development of emerging climate technologies, matching or surpassing the pace set by the tech sector in recent decades. Only through such accelerated progress can we hope to effectively address the urgent and extensive challenges posed by the climate crisis.

That’s why we at Tencent launched TanLIVE, a digital platform and set of tools designed to facilitate collaboration between the brightest and most dedicated professionals in every corner of the climate fight. TanLIVE hopes to mitigate climate change as a connector, catalyst and a community of people and organizations committed to achieving the world’s climate objectives.

Time flies — 2030 and 2060 are around the corner

For a long time, we were on a grim course, with estimates that by 2100, Earth would be an apocalyptic 4 degrees Celsius hotter. But we have made a great deal of progress. Policy changes, activism, advances in tech, and cheaper renewable energy have all made achieving the Paris Agreement goal possible: Cap the level of warming by the year 2100 at 2 degrees Celsius and aim for 1.5 degrees. 

New data steadily emerges about the viability of 1.5 degrees. A team of climate scientists, in a recent article in the journal Nature Climate Change, said if we want a 50 percent shot of keeping warming to 1.5C, our remaining carbon budget, or RCB, is equal to roughly six years of current carbon emissions. Chris Smith, a climate scientist at the University of Leeds who contributed to the calculations for the report, told Tencent: "Every tenth of a degree is important. The negative impacts of climate change progressively get worse at higher warming levels, and we don’t know precisely at what point we might trigger irreversible changes in the Earth’s system. For instance, the collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet would contribute several meters to global sea level rise. It’s best never to find out, which is why we should aim for a peak warming at as low a level as possible."

Goals and dates differ. The state of California, long a self-declared climate-solutions leader, made a $54 billion climate commitment to cut air pollution by 71 percent, reduce fossil fuel consumption to under a tenth of 2021 levels and achieve carbon neutrality by no later than 2045. In cities, programs to decrease the carbon footprint can play a particularly visible and impactful role due to complex infrastructure that lends itself beautifully to cross-sectoral integration and major technology applications such as smart grids. In April 2022, the European Commission announced the Cities Mission, in which 100 member cities will become "climate neutral and smart" by 2030. The power of this mission is magnificent: Even though cities take up only 3 percent of the globe’s land, they’re responsible for 72 percent of its greenhouse gas emissions. 

China has committed to carbon neutrality by 2060, at which point 80 percent of its energy will come from non-fossil-fuel sources. Germany and Sweden are targeting 2045; the EU, 2050. We tip our hat to Bhutan and Suriname, the only two countries in the world that have already succeeded in carbon neutrality. In fact, both are carbon negative, removing more carbon than they emit.

The tech industry plays a starring role in every one of these pledges, on the granular level and as lead

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