Digitisation and AI are key drivers for achieving future sustainability goals

COP28 highlights the transformative role of AI in addressing climate change and enhancing decision-making

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Nayef Bou Chaaya, vice president — MEA at AVEVA.
Nayef Bou Chaaya, vice president — MEA at AVEVA.

Published: Tue 5 Dec 2023, 1:27 PM

At COP28, digitisation and artificial intelligence (AI) are strong talking points, as leading experts and institutions address how technology can assist in making key decisions related to combatting climate change. With a broad field of applications, AI and digitisation stand to be essential tools in understanding the vast amounts of data available on climate conditions, as well as harnessing this data to make effective changes.

AVEVA, a leading industrial software company and a key proponent of digital transformation and sustainability, has been quick to recognise how digitization plays an essential role in decarbonisation and a more sustainable future. “The World Economic Forum estimates that digital technologies at scale in hard-to-abate sectors such as energy, mobility and materials, could reduce emissions by as much as 20 per cent by 2050, making it crucial in enabling a net-zero future,” comments Nayef Bou Chaaya, vice president — MEA at AVEVA. "The industrial sector currently contributes 32 per cent of the world’s CO2 emissions and over 73 per cent of greenhouse gases come from energy. It is important to rapidly digitalise these sectors to improve their efficiency and digitisation plays an essential role in uniting stakeholders, spurring action and delivering on climate goals."

A similar viewpoint is echoed by Vijay Jaswal, chief technology officer, APJ&MEA, IFS, said: "Integrating digital technologies in industrial processes boosts productivity and increases operational performance to support growth without the need to add more resources that consume more energy. Leveraging digital tools such as AI and ML enhances energy efficiencies across industries and aids in supply chain optimisation, thus contributing to a circular economy."

The concept of a circular economy is not a new one, but digitisation can help streamline traditional workflows to track and manage the lifecycle of certain products, thus promoting reuse and recycling where applicable. Energy distribution and management can also gain a lot from digitisation, mainly by detecting inefficiencies, finding new ways to integrate renewable energy sources, and helping to make sustainable sourcing decisions.

One primary advantage of digitisation is being able to handle vast data sets that can provide insights into energy consumption, emissions, and resource utilisation. According to Vicky Bullivant, senior vice president —Sustainability at NTT Ltd, "Digitisation has more advantages than simply making things more efficient. “Digital tools streamline operations, supply chains, and transportation networks, curbing waste and enhancing resource management. Digitisation isn't just about efficiency; it fuels innovation, empowers consumer awareness, and aids policymakers in implementing data-driven strategies, all crucial components in steering our global community towards a more sustainable and eco-conscious future."

AI is another strong talking point at COP28, with experts from Microsoft, Google, and IBM all providing insights into how AI is shaping the future of sustainability. If used correctly, AI can be harnessed to rapidly speed up industrial decarbonization in several ways. "Process simulation, for example, can aid operation improvement by targeting net-zero goals in new plant designs and scale new frontier technologies,” explains Bou Chaaya. "Predictive analytics ensure renewable energy infrastructure efficiency and reliability by identifying emission avoidance and predicting potential issues such as unexpected downtime and machine failure during plant operation. Moreover, Generative AI informs industrial plant designers about environmental impacts, enabling continuous enhancement and optimised design examples to reduce the amount of energy used in the production of these various processes."

Sujoy Banerjee, associate director at ManageEngine, also agrees that while AI is a fundamental IT expenditure, it also helps companies to reduce their overall carbon footprint. “In IT asset management, AI predicts the life span of assets and helps organisations keep them well maintained. To reduce the carbon footprint caused by commuting, AI enhances remote collaboration tools by automating mundane tasks and fostering stronger, more productive communication. As it evolves, AI will continue to transform business practices to be more environmentally sustainable."

Resource allocation is one of the biggest hurdles that organisations face in the race to adopt greener production methods and take a strong stance on sustainability. AI algorithms can play an important part in this decision-making process, simply by monitoring components such as logistics, transportation, and energy patterns to rework models into more efficient ones. “AI can help organisations by optimising resource allocation, enhancing energy efficiency, and identifying areas for improvement through data analysis,” comments Jaswal. “Machine learning algorithms for example, can analyse vast datasets to uncover patterns, helping to reduce waste and increase the effectiveness of renewable energy sources. By harnessing AI's capabilities in decision-making and resource management, organisations can pave the way toward a net-zero world, securing a sustainable future for generations to come."

For companies like AVEVA who are present at COP28, the conversation around AI and digitisation is a vast one to cover, yet it cannot be ignored. The value and efficiency these technologies bring is important for organisations to consider, especially if they are to meet their sustainability goals for the future. “At COP28, we are highlighting how digital solutions can minimise CO² emissions of existing industrial infrastructure while maximizing efficiency across the value chain and delivering measurable cost savings that can be reinvested in clean technologies,” comments Bou Chaaya.

“COP28 is a milestone moment for the world to take stock of its progress on the Paris Agreement. Collaboration is essential to driving efficient global value chains – and collective action is also essential to drive decarbonisation. We want to build bridges across international communities and cultivate critical partnerships with businesses, governments and civil society leaders to build forward-thinking solutions that accelerate climate action, worldwide."

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