INTERVIEW: COP27 is a great opportunity to turn sustainability ambition into action: IBM vice president -Sheikh

INTERVIEW: COP27 is a great opportunity to turn sustainability ambition into action: IBM vice president -Sheikh

He also highlighted the ongoing partnerships with the public sector and NGOs to enhance digital payment services and provide access to clean energy in remote areas.

Ahram Online: How did IBM support this year’s COP27?

Jonathan Adashek: Let me start by saying that IBM is honoured to be a technology partner in this year’s COP conference. This collaboration with [Egypt’s presidency of the conference] builds on IBM’s history of environmental commitments and alliances, such as establishing a goal to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 or being a founding member of the United Nations Environment Programme’s Science-Policy-Business Forum on the Environment.

We have seen good progress in commitments recently as organisations, companies and governments have laid out specific sustainability goals. Now people expect to see what you are doing to fulfil those commitments with tangible, real examples.

COP represents a great opportunity to help stakeholders come together to turn that sustainability ambition into action. That’s what we are here to do.

AO: What do you intend to announce during the COP?

JA: We will showcase how technology and consulting can help business and government leaders align sustainability goals to organisational objectives, responding to regulatory demands and without compromising profitability. Organisational leaders must recognise sustainability as a core element of their business strategy, while identifying the right advisory partners to support them on their journey.

With our focus on AI and hybrid cloud, innovations like quantum computing, and the expertise of our employees, we are placed to help organisations in this space. We play an active role in designing, deploying and managing sustainability solutions for our clients.

We announced our partnership with e-finance, the national developer of digital payments infrastructure, to expand its digital payment services while reducing energy consumption by 50 percent using our infrastructure solutions and hybrid cloud technology.

We are announcing as well the second cohort of IBM Sustainability Accelerator, including Environment Without Borders foundation, a local organisation, to tackle clean energy issues.

AO: Given the current global challenges, how can we bring back the focus on the climate crises?

JA: There is no doubt that the climate crisis is one of the most important challenges we face today. The impacts of climate change are global in scope and unprecedented in scale. Without drastic action today, adapting to the future implications will be more difficult and costly.

At IBM, we leverage a comprehensive technology portfolio powered by hybrid cloud and AI and consulting expertise to unlock new ways where public entities and enterprises can operate in a way that is both sustainable and resilient, contributing to global sustainable growth. We are working to shift the thinking on how technology is developed towards a process of co-creation from the ground up. 

Simply providing technology without a real understanding of the cultural, regional, or socio-economic factors that could pose barriers to adoption will not work. Building a more sustainable organisation requires strong partnerships. It requires more than technology. It requires collaboration and time,

AO: How can technology boost the net zero initiative? 

JA: IBM aspires to make a lasting, positive impact in business ethics, our environment, and the communities in which we work and live. That is why our net zero pledge is a bold step forward that strengthens our long-standing climate leadership.

Through this commitment, IBM is prioritising actual reductions in its emissions, energy efficiency efforts and increased clean energy use across the more than 175 countries where we operate. Fulfilling net zero commitments does not just fall on one country or company. We understand that large societal challenges cannot be overcome by any single public or private entity, so we work to establish a wide range of partnerships, collaborations and engagements to drive innovation and advance progress.

Currently, we have a set of 21 environmental commitments including achieving Net Zero GHG Emissions by 2030 and diverting 90 percent of non-hazardous waste by weight from landfill and incineration by 2025, which we report on annually in our report, IBM Impact. On top of that, we require all first-tier suppliers to maintain their own environmental management system; set goals regarding energy management, greenhouse gas emissions reduction, and waste management; and publicly disclose progress.

AO: What are the examples of the best practices that the company has supported through the sustainability accelerator?

JA: The IBM Sustainability Accelerator is a pro bono social impact program that applies our technologies, such as hybrid cloud and artificial intelligence, and an ecosystem of experts to enhance and scale non-profit and government organisation interventions helping populations especially vulnerable to environmental threats including climate change, extreme weather, and pollution. 

We launched the program earlier this year with our first cohort focused on sustainable agriculture, and a request for proposal to start a second cohort on clean energy. To give you an example of the first cohort that has worked with us for almost a year now…in Malawi, we are working with Heifer International to help farmers increase food and crop productivity while creating resiliency to challenges such as climate change. The idea of the program is to help vulnerable populations.

With this new cohort focused on clean energy, we are collaborating with Environment Without Borders Foundation (EWBF) in Egypt to develop a platform to forecast, track and communicate clean energy usage options. The goal with this initiative is to enable resilient and sustainable infrastructure and operations for clean energy in Egypt, helping residents of remote villages for whom energy is currently both expensive and unreliable.

AO: How will you support the project’s implementation?

JA: We work with each cohort for two years. Let me use the example of our partner in Egypt. Over the two-year accelerator experience and till 2024, we will work with EWBF to scale and develop the clean energy initiative management platform through technical roadmap with recommendations for the design, development, and implementation of the clean energy platform ecosystem.

We intend to have minimum viable product version of the clean energy platform, with a focus on modules for solar energy providers as well as organizations working with communities to encourage a transition to clean energy.

AO: How can IBM support the Paris agreement to limit global warming to below 1.5 °C?

JA: What I can say is that the burden of fulfilling net zero commitments does not just fall on one country or company, it requires a collective effort in order to keep warming below 1.5 °C.

Reports from the UN have shown that we must redouble climate efforts if we are to reach the Paris Agreement’s goal. We all must take immediate action and investing in technology is a critical part of this.

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