COP28 commitment adds hope for healing planet Earth

Green factory industry for good environment
Vaisala’s Chief Strategy Officer (CSO)
Anne Jalkala
Chief Sustainability and Strategy Officer at Vaisala
Environmental and Public Health Protection
Weather & Environment

Winds of change are sweeping across the desert sands of Dubai, hopefully leaving a lasting mark on the planet's future. The megatrends central to Vaisala strategy: decarbonization & energy transition, AI & process optimization as well as health & well-being play a key role in enabling climate action.  

When considering whether to travel to COP28 Climate Negotiations, skepticism lingered in my mind. In the end, my reluctance to amplifying my personal carbon footprint kept me from witnessing in-person what turned out to be a pivotal moment in the fight against climate change. As a result, I participated only virtually this year.  

As a surprise to everyone, a historic agreement was reached at COP 28: a commitment to transition away from fossil fuels. 130 nations pledged to triple renewable energy capacity and double energy efficiency. A critical alliance formed when 50 oil and gas companies signed a methane reduction pledge, promising to halt the flaring of excess gas and eliminate methane leakages by 2030. 

Yet, amid this triumph, the International Energy Agency's stark warning echoed: the 1.5-degree target allows no room for new oil or gas exploration projects. The urgency to accelerate the energy transition became undeniable, calling for innovation to propel existing technologies forward. 

Climate and health go hand-in-hand 

The heart of the matter is not only in energy but also in the intimate connection between climate and health. While following COP28, I reflected back on COP26 in Glasgow, where the Health System Task Force emerged to decarbonize the healthcare supply chain. The healthcare sector, responsible for over 5% of global CO2 emissions, now stood at the forefront of change. 

At COP28, the symbiosis of climate change and health took center stage on Health Day. As we cope with the effects of Covid19, Pascal Soriot, CEO of AstraZeneca, reminded us that climate change and pollution annually claim even more lives. With the surge in diseases linked to carbon emissions, life science companies play a vital role in actively combating climate change and decarbonizing health care.  

From pledges to proof  

Climate pledges only matter when executed. Capture, measure, benchmark, and report are the key actions businesses need to take to make themselves future proof. Accurate and transparent data is central for getting to net zero. All companies that have set themselves emission reduction targets need a data plan for emission reduction verifications, with a baseline for Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions and benchmark against peers in one’s industry. The cost of not acting is becoming much higher than cost of acting. 

This year's COP saw a heightened emphasis on the potential of artificial intelligence as a valuable tool in combating climate change. At COP28, the UN and Enterprise Neurosystem launched the AI Innovation Grand Challenge, a groundbreaking initiative designed to identify and foster the development of practical AI-powered solutions for climate action in developing countries. Innovators are encouraged to create tangible applications of artificial intelligence that directly tackle pressing climate challenges, including predicting weather patterns, optimizing renewable energy systems, and enhancing agricultural practices. 

The actions we take in the next few years will have big implications, not only during our lifetime, but for generations to come. The decisions and developments at COP28 add hope for the future, yet one key question echoes in my mind after this year’s COP: Are we doing enough? Are we truly taking every measure for the planet?  

Inspired by former Unilever CEO Paul Polman, my new year prediction is the following: First we had the industrial revolution. Then the digital revolution. And next year we should be in the middle of sustainability revolution at the speed of AI – and we at Vaisala are fully committed to enabling the climate action our planet needs.  

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