It was great to see young people take centre stage at the pre-COP26 youth summit “Youth4Climate: Driving Ambition”.
In an action-packed three day event, almost 400 representatives from the 197 member-countries of the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) came together in Milan to discuss four key themes – youth driving ambition, sustainable recovery, non-state actors' engagement and climate-conscious society. Each theme corresponded to a working group led by two people: a youth representative and a senior expert from an international organisation.
It’s heartening to see the enthusiasm, engagement and talent of young people – their appetite for change is clear from this year’s Peoples’ Climate Vote where nearly 70% of under-18s said that climate change is a global emergency, compared to 65% of those aged 18-35, and just 58% of those aged over 60.
The way to harness this energy is through effective collaboration and last week’s summit is a perfect example of this in action. The other thing young people bring to the table is bravery – as the clock ticks down to COP26 we need to push boundaries. And it’s something we’ve tried to do ourselves with the launch of the first*-ever film powered by zero-carbon energy.
The film was powered entirely by cyclists and a solar-powered generator, with zero carbon emissions from energy use. Narrated by Sir Sam Mendes, the film is set on a beach at night and features a group of cyclists who use pedal power to light up a connected projector showing a Hitachi battery train thundering past. The projection reveals all the low-carbon transport options Hitachi has developed or is working on.
We hope the film will make a real impact, but, as a climate change innovator and Principal Partner of COP26, we also understand we need to do more. This is why we have 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.
But putting our own house in order needs to be the start not the end of our commitment. As a social, purposeful business, we want to lead, encourage and motivate other industry partners to solve the global climate crisis. This means backing up our targets with world-leading R&D. With that in mind, we’ve 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.
These R&D projects provide the ideal platform for young people to unleash their creativity and passion but it’s up to businesses and organisations to give them the opportunity to shine. R&D is the foundation of many of the transport projects featured in our zero-carbon film but it’s also the driving force behind the best-in-class infrastructure which supports them. 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.
Our job as nations, governments and business is to protect the planet for future generations. And the most effective way to do that is to put young people right at the heart of our plans.
* Based on desk research by Hitachi Europe