In December, Dubai hosted the 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28), described by the UN as the world’s only multilateral decision-making forum on climate change.
To put it simply, a UN advisory stated, COP is where the world comes together to agree on ways to address the climate crisis, such as limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, helping vulnerable communities adapt to the effects of climate change, and achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.
With an estimated 70,000 delegates in attendance, much was done, leading to the signing of an agreement by 197 nations as well as the EU to deliver what the UN described as a “new era of climate action.
“Today, the Parties agreed (on) a landmark text named The UAE Consensus, that sets out an ambitious climate agenda to keep 1.5°C within reach. The UAE Consensus calls on Parties to transition away from fossil fuels to reach net zero, encourages them to submit economy wide Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), includes a new specific target to triple renewables and double energy efficiency by 2030, and builds momentum towards a new architecture for climate finance.”
During his closing speech, Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, president of COP28, stated, “the world needs to find a new way. By following our North Star, we have found that path. We have worked very hard to secure a better future for our people and our planet. We should be proud of our historic achievement.”
The signing of the UAE Consensus means that not only will governments need to double down on their efforts to reach sustainability goals, but organizations of all sizes will have to as well.
With that in mind, consider this from Leah Goldfarb, environmental impact officer with Platform.sh, an enterprise-grade platform for building, running and scaling web applications: In 2024, sustainability IT is poised to take centre stage. “Companies will need to measure their IT footprint to understand where they need to act to reduce emissions to meet their net-zero commitments.
“And following the guidance of the GHG protocol, the reporting on emissions will become standardized. In terms of the cloud, the importance of a location-based approach will shift demand to datacentres that run on low-carbon energy.
“Resource-conscious computing and observability will also become imperative. Organizations that have not already made the switch to high-density cloud computing (e.g., PaaS: Platform-as-a-Service) will need to do so to meet KPIs and sustainability goals.”
In its Predictions 2024 Environmental Sustainability report released last month, Forrester stated, “the green market revolution involves three key goals for organizations: minimizing their own environmental impact; enhancing the sustainability of current products and services; and developing new environmentally friendly products and services to capitalize on the green market’s potential. Rapidly emerging regulations in environmental sustainability present outsized challenges as well as opportunities.”
The consulting firm predicts that next year the sustainability management software market will double due to compliance needs. “Mandatory requirements,” it contends, “will increasingly require public companies to measure, calculate, and report complex environmental sustainability metrics across their organizations on a consistent basis. Accurate data collecting, carbon accounting and versatile reporting capabilities will demand automation with software.
“Challenges like supply chain decarbonization, emission factors for greenhouse gas calculations, and multiple worldwide regulations will also drive demand. Expect the sustainability management software market to experience upheaval, as niche specialists will need to evolve, partner with larger vendors, or be acquired as the market skyrockets.”
Other organizations also weighed in with ESG predictions for 2024:
Policymakers and technology leaders will finally pay attention to AI’s energy consumption problem: According to Arun Iyengar, the chief executive officer (CEO) of Canadian AI chip maker Untether AI, “Of all the major green think tanks in Canada and the U.S., none of them have written anything of substance about how regulation of AI might/will include incentives for it to be run on greener chips – this will finally come to the forefront of discussions as AI becomes more ubiquitous.”
Fully autonomous vehicles will not make it on the roads in Canada in 2024: Iyengar maintained that the dream of fully autonomous vehicles getting on the road in 2024 will remain a dream. AVs have been ‘around the corner’ for nearly a decade. However, substantial technological hurdles persist – particularly in Canada, where AVs falter in inclement weather.
Next year, we will see many organizations fall behind on their environmental goals as they adopt AI. Brent Allen, vice president and country manager with Pure Storage Canada, predicted, “with business leaders rushing to adopt AI, many are realizing they are not prepared for its energy requirements.
“The organizations that come out on top will be those that take the time to update their IT infrastructure with energy efficiency in mind before widespread AI adoption. They will be able to leverage AI and maintain a competitive edge without compromising on their commitments to reducing carbon emission.”
Finally, PwC’s 2024 Canadian ESG Reporting Insights, released in late November, indicated trouble ahead for many organizations, as findings revealed that more than four in five companies (81 per cent) do not financially quantify their climate-related risks, and 73 per cent of those surveyed do not fully disclose how they have analyzed and incorporated ESG issues into their long-term strategy.
Sustainability reporting pressures on Canadian companies are becoming even more demanding and complex with the new Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) mandate for companies both inside and outside the EU, for reporting on ESG issues, PwC noted.
It added, “many Canadian companies are unaware that CSRD applies to them and their obligations under it. Companies that are not prepared to meet the new regulatory requirements will find themselves at risk for not just financial penalties, but also reputational damage.”