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Hitachi Sustainability

1 November 2021
Alistair Dormer, Chief Environmental Officer, Hitachi, Ltd.

My COP26 Wish List – Concrete Commitments, Specific Actions, and Public-Private Partnerships: it’s Time to Act, Together

Finally, COP26 is upon us. After months of build-up, tentative promises, announcements, commitments and diplomacy, the moment is now. Expectations for this summit are high and understandably so. The planet and the world’s population are relying on its success.

The most recent IPCC report sets the sobering scene: We are closer to irreversible tipping points – as temperatures rise, forests could start to die and Antarctic ice sheets could become destabilized. Human activity is unequivocally driving extreme weather, and we are set to pass 1.5C of warming by 2040.

It’s clear, the time for talking is over. We have to act.

As Principal Partner of COP26, we are optimistic that concrete and tangible actions can come from this gathering of nations. I believe that this summit can only be a success if they do. The science has made it clear that it’s too late for wake up calls. World leaders, global businesses, and the general public all agree we have to decarbonise to tackle climate change. We all need to act, businesses too, and there’s plenty that we can do. What we need now are agreements about how we’re going to do it.

It’s time to turn our lofty ambitions into specific partnerships and projects that can and will build a net zero world.

I’m not under any illusions – the scale of the task at hand is huge, but we can do it. This must start with our own emissions. We are a global conglomerate and we are actively orienting our business towards sustainable technology. We’re on target to make all our factories and offices carbon neutral by 2030, and across our value chain by 2050.

At Hitachi, we believe that if you want to be a social innovation business in 2021, you have to be a climate innovation business. Our original company mission set in 1910 was to ‘contribute to society through the development of superior, original technology and product.’

Simply put, we want to power good in the world. We believe we have a duty to pass on a prosperous planet to future generations. Right now, this means harnessing our expertise and experience to tackle climate change. It’s why we have put ourselves at the heart of COP26. Through our partnership with COP26, we are supporting the UK Government, which holds the COP26 Presidency, to achieve a society that is low carbon, resource efficient and harmonised with nature.

And beyond the UK, we want to play our role as climate change inovators. But the reality is, the actions of governments or businesses or individuals will not be enough on their own. We have to collaborate. Technology and innovation are key to this transformation, and we take our responsibility to society as a technology and innovation business seriously, using our expertise in these fields to accelerate the energy transition and to lead, encourage and motivate other industry partners to do the same.

When I talk about collaboration, I mean everything from the transport infrastructure between cities, to the supply of electricity within them and mobility programmes that keep them moving in green and efficient ways.

I believe that we need to approach our ambitions practically and begin to take the measures needed to achieve them. For example, to facilitate a 100% transition of diesel and petrol cars to electric, we need to backcast and see what infrastructure is needed to make that happen.

For a start, we will 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.

I want to call on governments – both the UK Government and those of the nations attending COP26 – to give businesses what we need to take on these challenges, to lend our strength to the mission. Only if we can build infrastructure and innovate carbon reducing technology will we all, collectively, be able to achieve our ambitions for climate for the future.

The actions we all commit to, – concrete, specific, measurable and accountable – and whether we actually deliver them, will be how this COP will be judged by our children and grandchildren. For many years we have talked a good game on climate, and change is happening. But now it’s time to shift gears, to forge partnerships, to collaborate, exchange expertise, and act to build the future.

The moment is upon us. Let’s seize it.

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