As the dust settles on COP26, now is the time to redouble our efforts to turn our climate change ambitions into climate change actions.
Next month marks 100 days since the biggest COP ever staged, but the momentum generated at this global showcase will count for little if we don’t deliver on the promises we made in Glasgow.
As a social innovation business and Principal Partner of COP26, we want to be a catalyst for the next stage of the energy transition, working with nations, governments and businesses to accelerate the race to net zero. In order to do this there are five key principles we must embrace.
- This is a global challenge which requires a global solution
You only need to look at COVID to see that a major global challenge needs a major global solution. It’s a fact that we will only achieve our collective climate change ambitions if we include everyone. If we don’t help the developing nations, then we’re not going to solve this problem.
We all know that individual nations have their own priorities, but the future of the planet is at stake here and we need nations, governments and business to come together to find solutions. There is a role here for both the developed and developing nations – the former traditionally takes the lead on technology, but the latter have a critical part to play, particularly when it comes to solar power. Their challenge will be how to distribute that and support rural communities where the grid is not currently in place. Innovation will be the key and we need to see more of it from both the developed and the developing world.
- Partnerships must play their part
However you assess the energy transition, from a national, government or business point of view, it’s clear that the only way to address it is together. We have to put collaboration at the heart of our approach.
If we are going to build a cleaner, greener future, we need every area of society to step up and embrace net zero. For business, there are huge opportunities, particularly around smart energy, mobility and industry – now is the time to unlock them. And whilst business partnerships come with a cost, the reality is that investment can quickly become a saving – let’s face it, energy saving technology and CO2 reduction technology are the same thing.
We want to lead by example which is why we’re right at the heart of Optimise Prime, the world’s largest commercial electric vehicle trial to date. We’re collaborating with Royal Mail, Uber, UK Power Networks, Centrica and Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks in a three-year trial that will inform the UK government on how best to develop its EV infrastructure. We’ve also teamed up with Arrival to deliver new bus and infrastructure solutions to the European bus industry. We need more of these types of partnerships if we are to deliver on the pledges of COP26.
- Public/Private collaboration is key
It was encouraging to see the mobilisation of the private sector and the financial community at COP26. What we need to do now is turbo-charge public-private partnerships as they hold the key to a successful energy transition. It’s time to turn government commitments into actual projects that the private sector can deliver.
If policy makers establish the right regulatory frameworks and roadmaps like we’ve seen in Italy and the UK, private sector businesses will be ideally placed to unleash best-in-class R&D projects backed by the required financial support. This is how public-private cooperation will deliver a net zero society.
- We need to unlock a smarter and more flexible grid
If we’re going to achieve our climate change ambitions, we’ll need to double the amount of electricity available, which will mean investing in growing the grid. Government grants incentivising consumers can play a part in this, but for wholesale change to happen we need governments to work in partnership with businesses and cities, to leverage private sector money to invest in and manage these huge projects, and to take the performance risk.
In 2022 we need to take on these challenges and lend our strength to the mission by building better infrastructure and pioneering carbon reducing technology. This requires best-in-class R&D and we all need to put our shoulder to the wheel. For us, Hitachi Energy has delivered more than half of the world’s high-voltage direct current (HVDC) projects including NordLink, a 623-km long HVDC electricity interconnection that links German and Norwegian power markets for the first time, and Dogger Bank Wind Farm which connects the third transmission link, more than 130-km long, from the world’s largest offshore wind farm to the UK mainland. We’re aware that industry has a finite capacity but there is more capacity that can be brought to bear so that we can handle more and more of these schemes.
- The transport of the future requires a holistic approach
If we’re going to build a cleaner, greener transport network, we need a whole-systems approach. Our transport systems are inter-connected so our solutions need to be inter-connected too.
It’s time for decision makers to take a step back and embrace a 360 degree vision – at Hitachi we have a major presence in rail, automotive, energy and digital and can see the synergy and the potential of the innovations being made in all these areas. 2022 is the year to accelerate the scope and scale of this innovation.
For our part, we’re involved in major projects across the entire transport network: in Japan, our Dencha battery-powered trains celebrated its fifth anniversary last year, plus we’ve developed battery trams in Florence.
Supporting all of this is our ‘Mobility as a Service’ approach where we’re delivering digital solutions that improve and optimise the whole transport system – things like smart ticketing, integrated multi-modal traffic management, and remote condition monitoring, which both improve the experience and reliability of travel for passengers, and encourage a modal shift in how people choose to get from place to place.
If we collectively embrace these five key principles, we have every chance of delivering our climate change ambitions. COP26 has already assured its place in the history books – whether it’s a footnote or a pivotal chapter depends on what we do next.