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Hitachi Sustainability

27 September 2021
Alistair Dormer, Chief Environmental Officer, Hitachi, Ltd.

It’s Time to Turn Climate Change Ambition into Climate Change Action

Earlier this year the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) published the largest survey of public opinion on climate change ever conducted. Called the Peoples’ Climate Vote, it asked 1.2 million people to share their views on climate change.

As you would expect, the results were fascinating but one stand-out feature for me was the sheer passion young people have for their planet. Nearly 70% of under-18s said that climate change is a global emergency, compared to 65% of those aged 18-35, 66% aged 36-59 and just 58% of those aged over 60.

It’s yet more evidence that our job as nations, governments and business is to protect the planet for future generations. Hitachi’s company mission set in 1910 was to “contribute to society through the development of superior, original technology and products”. In simple terms, we want to power good in the world.

Today, that means harnessing our expertise and experience to tackle climate change and that is exactly why we have just strengthened our own climate target to contribute to a Net Zero society by achieving carbon neutrality through our entire value chain by 2050 – this includes production, procurement and the use of products and services. And this is on top of our existing commitment of reaching carbon neutrality at all of our factories and offices globally by 2030.

We should always strive to do more. Back in 2016, we set our previous target of 80% reduction by 2050. Fast forward five years and that’s simply not enough. But putting our own house in order needs to be the start not the end of our commitment. As a Principal Partner of COP26 and a social, purposeful business, we want to lead, encourage and motivate other industry partners to solve the global climate crisis.

Against this backdrop, it’s important for us to make this new statement of intent. But let’s be honest, targets will only ever be targets if we don’t back them up with best-in-class R&D. As we approach what is arguably the biggest environmental conference this century, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to turn ambition into action. This is why we’ve also just announced that we’ll spend ¥1.5 trillion (almost £10 billion) over a three-year period on R&D technologies to foster digital innovation. This will include research and development of high-efficiency products, energy management systems and hydrogen-related technologies to help unlock digital innovation to achieve a decarbonised society.

As last month’s IPCC report starkly demonstrated, we have no time to waste – now is the moment for nations and businesses to pull together to accelerate the energy transition. Green technology in a digital world can turbo-charge this acceleration and R&D teams have an incredible opportunity to help cities, governments and companies cut carbon. But if we are to realise this opportunity, we need to firstly create the technology that moves beyond wind and creates power through other sources, and secondly find something that eats carbon and creates something good.

This is where the next generation can make the difference – they are so engaged on this topic, and they have the skills and the passion to enhance our quality of life and create a cleaner, greener planet. Next week for example almost 400 young people representing the 197 member-countries of the UNFCCC will gather in Milan for the pre-COP26 youth summit, titled “Youth4Climate: Driving Ambition”.

On the agenda for the three-day event are four key themes – youth driving ambition, sustainable recovery, non-state actors' engagement and climate-conscious society. Each theme will correspond to a working group which will be led by two people: a youth representative and a senior expert from an international organisation. This spirit of collaboration is exactly what we need if we are to deliver our climate change objectives.

So, we’re proud to stand behind our new climate target and R&D investment. We’re also proud of our commitment to halve our energy bill by 2030 and the fact that we’re in ongoing dialogue with the top 70% by value of our supply chain about their own decarbonisation plans.

But these are headlines – what I’m really interested in is the full story and, for me, that is all about turning this ambition into action. With world-leading innovation powered by the next generation, we have every chance of building the future they truly deserve.

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