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Hitachi Sustainability

10 May 2021
Alistair Dormer, Chief Environmental Officer

Biden Gathering Cannot be the Summit of our Climate Change Ambitions

It was great to see the headlines about climate action generated by last week’s global Leaders Summit on Climate hosted by President Biden. But let’s be honest, headlines can only tell us so much. I’m far more interested in the whole story and how we at Hitachi can come together with like-minded businesses, governments and cities and play our part at this most crucial of moments.

The Global View

We’ve seen a changing of the guard at the top table of world politics with Joe Biden replacing Donald Trump as American president and Yoshihide Suga taking over from Shinzo Abe in Japan. Last week President Biden announced that the US will aim to cut its greenhouse gas emissions in half, based on 2005 levels, by the end of the decade. This news came hot on the heels of the UK’s commitment to slash emissions by 78% by 2035 and the US and China pledging joint action on climate change. In a world where agreement is often hard to find, it feels like we are in accord on the importance of this opportunity. We must grab it with both hands.

At Hitachi we believe that the collaborative approach adopted by global leaders is exactly what business needs to embrace if we are to achieve our climate change ambitions. Powered by collective digital innovation, we can build a green infrastructure today that can support our plans for tomorrow.

Hitachi and COP26 Principal Partner logo

In my new role of Chief Environmental Officer at Hitachi, I’m beginning to understand what a massive opportunity this is for us. Things are moving incredibly quickly, and it feels like governments are announcing ambitious targets for CO reduction on an almost weekly basis, which is fantastic news. The world has woken up to the fact that green infrastructure can act as an economic enabler and a climate change enabler, and we’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel as we emerge from the pandemic.

When I consider my priorities, it’s important to start by putting our own house in order. As a Principal Partner of COP26, we are actively orienting our business towards the sustainable technology of the future. We've got an enormous amount of work to do to decarbonise Hitachi, but we're very committed to doing it. Our environmental targets include the achievement of carbon neutrality at all of our factories and offices by the fiscal year 2030 and an 80% reduction in CO emissions across our value chain by 2050.

Wind turbines with the Race to Zero logo

But our own commitments are just the start of the story. If we are to achieve these targets, we need to bring our best-in-class digital innovation to the table – this is the engine room of our business and can help propel our partners, our customers and our suppliers forward and achieve their individual environmental ambitions. Our role should be one of encouragement and leadership – we need to set the direction of the compass for industry in Japan and beyond, we need to show the way. The bottom line is that high performing ESG companies tend to deliver better financial results, so the two things go hand in hand. 

One of the great things about Joe Biden’s Leaders Summit is that it has brought many different stakeholders together around one shared goal. This made me think about my own company. I’ve worked for Hitachi for 18 years and we are at our best when our different business units are united behind a common purpose. A good example is the partnership between Hitachi ABB Power Grids and Lumada where our digital technology is improving asset performance. In 2021, the environment is our common purpose and collaboration is the way to achieve our climate change ambitions.

A train passing by a glass building on an urban street

At Hitachi we’ve got a business that can contribute from wind to wheel, whether it’s getting renewable energy into the system, or providing digital technology to manage the multi-layered optimisation that is required for slightly less stable energy supply. But we’re also right at the heart of mobility. We’ve been building electric trains for years, but our automotive business has rapidly switched its focus to EVs and huge investment in electricity grid infrastructure to cope with renewables. Mobility continues to be dominated by the internal combustion engine, and, whilst conventional fossil fuel is still here, things are changing very quickly. Governments are embracing this – they want to go electric with clean public transport systems to get people moving again.

A train zooming through the street with the Hitachi social innovation slogan

There are massive opportunities out there for business and our job at Hitachi is to share our experience and our expertise. Experience in the key sectors that must lead the way to decarbonisation, namely, Power, Transportation and Industry. And expertise in digital innovation, the technology that is driving us ever closer to our targets. 

At Hitachi we talk a lot about co-creation. It’s so important to our business – collaboration between companies but also collaboration between companies and the government and this idea of joint intellectual property. Last week, for example, we announced a partnership between Hitachi ABB Power Grids and GE with joint IP around technologies to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions for high electricity transformers and switchgear. We need to do more of this – if we can jointly accelerate innovation to reduce the effects of climate change, then we really are heading in the right direction.

With the Covid recovery underway, it’s critical that governments and businesses balance their economic and environmental ambitions and find the territory where we can accelerate them both together. As the dust settles on the Leaders Summit on Climate, we must take this positive momentum forward with us on the road to COP26. Today more than ever, I am convinced that collaboration is the key to a successful energy transition and a cleaner, greener planet.

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