We are at a critical juncture in determining the future stability and health of the world’s economies.
How businesses and governments choose to emerge from the Covid-19 crisis will either revert to the short-sighted economic practices of the past or accelerate the transition to a more sustainable, low-carbon economy that is more resilient and better equipped to mitigate and combat future crises.
Although the pandemic has brought tremendous hardship, the leaders of today have been afforded a once-in-a-century opportunity to rebuild a better, smarter, more sustainable future.
Covid-19 has exposed our fragility to global disruptions, yet the threats that lie ahead from climate change and human encroachment on natural ecosystems could produce shocks of even greater magnitude, spanning even longer time frames.
The findings of a special report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reads like a plot one might expect in a Hollywood movie, but are in fact clear projections of our current trajectory: the triggering of tipping points, resulting in widespread famine, the collapse of industries, and the displacement of millions of people.
Rapid digitisation presents an opportunity to transform operational efficiencies.
As with any complex and consequential problem, there is no single solution. In order to usher in a sustainable future for people, planet, and profit alike. We must not only invest public funding in greener technologies, but also match financial support with policies and practices that incentivize innovation and the adoption of efficiency-enabling technologies.
Previous economic downturns have ended with a rebound in emissions. This time, we have the unique opportunity to decouple emissions from the resurgence of industry and transportation.
For instance, market mechanisms, such as a price on carbon, use the power of the market to incentivize organisations to shift to cleaner technologies and away from fossil fuels, and encourage enterprises to adopt digital tools that improve efficiencies.
The onset of the pandemic has already catalysed the implementation of networking technologies and the digital transformation of businesses. In fact, the disruption to our normal work practices has sped these transformations forward years, if not decades, as workforces have become virtualised overnight and connectivity critical to the way we collaborate and conduct business.
At HPE, we have seen this first hand, implementing AI-powered infrastructure from Aruba at half a million customer sites worldwide to optimise their reimagined work environments and reinvent their business models.
This rapid digitisation presents an opportunity for enterprises to transform their operations in ways that will create entirely new levels of efficiency and greater resilience, particularly for resource-intensive sectors that are at increased risk of systemic shocks.
In a 2015 report, Accenture predicted that efficiencies in industries such as buildings, agriculture, transportation, and manufacturing, could enable a 20 percent reduction in global emissions by 2030; while the World Economic Forum estimated that the industrial Internet of Things (IoT) alone could add $14 trillion of economic value to the global economy by 2030.
Clearly, decarbonising our industries and growing our economies is not a distinct choice.
Rather, as Michael Bloomberg states, the choice is “between capitalising on market forces or fighting them”.
Recognising the opportunity to curb the emissions of high-polluting sectors, while capturing new market opportunities, HPE has committed to investing $4 billion in edge computing and is partnering with our customers to enable the connectivity and real-time insights needed to accelerate the transition to a zero-carbon economy by 2050.
In other words, by pairing IoT sensors and devices with computing power placed close to where the data is generated—at the edge—we can enable game-changing sustainability solutions from the factory floor to the power grid to the crop field.
An estimated 75% of enterprise generated data will be created and processed at the edge by 2025, compared to just 10% today.
Take the resource-intensive manufacturing sector: Our customers are already implementing HPE’s Converged Edge Systems and AI analytics to uncover inefficiencies in energy use, asset utilisation, and materials consumption to make informed, data-backed decisions that deliver operational efficiencies.
Similarly, a large energy utility is boosting efficiency by deploying data analytics and IoT to better anticipate demand and create a self-healing, intelligent grid. Research organizations also recognise the potential to transform consumptive sectors like agriculture, where real-time IoT data from crops are captured to inform and automate precision application of water and agri-chemicals, resulting in higher yields for lower inputs.
The key to a sustainable future lies in these vast pools of data resources, and the timing is ripe to harness it to facilitate more sustainable means of production and ultimately, a carbon neutral economy, before it’s too late.
This decade has already brought us to a tipping point in the stability of our economies and in our fight against climate change, yet the timing of these immense challenge has also aligned with a complete transformation in how enterprises can and will harness data:
An estimated 75% of enterprise-generated data will be created and processed at the edge by 2025, compared to just 10% today—enabling unprecedented connectivity and propelling digital initiatives that will fuel the green recovery critical to this decade of action.
All of this adds up to a rare opportunity: a chance to transform our economy for the benefit of business and humanity alike.
While recovery strategies across the globe will be unique, intelligent edge and IoT solutions should underpin the strategy of any government or business as a necessary lever to usher us toward a sustainable “new normal”.
Christopher Wellise is Chief Sustainability Officer Hewlett Packard Enterprises.