Technology solutions for climate change

A PwC analysis identifies the top ten most influential breakthrough technology solutions with substantial benefits for the planet

New analysis by PwC UK identifies the top ten most influential breakthrough technology solutions that could be combined into five game changing innovations with substantial potential to move towards a zero net emissions economy over time.

Rapid technology and innovation advances underpinning the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ (4IR), come at a time when scientists report the highest levels of pressure on climatic, water, land and air systems.

“Innovation for the Earth” demonstrates how ten technological innovations including artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, robots, Internet of Things (IoT), cloud technology and advanced materials could come together to provide innovative and commercial viable climate solutions. The study applies the potentially most influential technology solutions to five areas of focus for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions; clean power, smart transport systems, sustainable production and consumption, sustainable land use, smart cities and homes. Moreover, it showcases how innovators and businesses could harness these advances to build solutions that deliver sustainability benefits, alongside economic and societal impacts. Addressing some of climate change’s biggest challenges could be helped by combining the technologies into five innovation game changers:

1.     A next generation distributed grid: combining blockchain, Artificial Intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud and big data, and advanced materials.

2.     Electrification of the transport system: combining cloud and big data, advanced materials, AI and IoT.

3.    A smart and automated road transport grid: combining autonomous vehicles, cloud and big data, and IoT.

4.    Smart and transparent land-use management: combining autonomous vehicles, IoT, AI, cloud and big data.

5.    Technology enabled urban planning and design: combining IoT, AI, cloud and big data, advanced materials, 3D printing, and autonomous vehicles.

Examples outlined in the report include virtual power plants connected to each other via the cloud, and utilising the IoT to aggregate emerging energy sources including solar panels, micro-grids and energy storage installations, could be optimised using big data and machine learning.

The study warns that innovators and policy makers also need to plan in the unintended consequences of rapid advances in technology and its accessibility. The expanding digital economy has an exponentially rising need for data transmission, data storage and computing power, giving rise to increasing GHGs and digital waste alongside the energy and emissions savings it generates.