• Our Culture

COP26 Reflections: Why Data Will be Key to Fighting Climate Change

By Gajen Kandiah

If we learned anything from the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference , it’s that no one government, company or technology alone will slow global warming. It will take us all, acting individually and collectively, and with urgency.

The warning signs of failing to act are becoming too big to miss. Just recently, the New York Times[1] reported that the impact from global warming is negatively impacting the ability of the ocean waters surrounding Antarctica to absorb the emissions of carbon dioxide, and heat from the atmosphere. This extremely alarming beause if parts of our ocean waters become carbon dioxide emitters the urgency to curb CO2 emissions across our planet must accelerate.

And this hits close to home. At our headquarters in the San Francisco Bay Area, United States, experts predict sea levels will rise by three-and-a-half-feet this century. Unabated, such an increase would routinely flood San Francisco’s Embarcadero walkway unless it is raised by as much as 7 feet. In the island nation of Sri Lanka, where I was raised, rising water levels could wipe out entire communities.

Hitachi is committed to playing its part to prevent such apocalyptic outcomes. We have committed to be carbon neutral in our own operations by 2030, and to extend that throughout our entire supply chain by 2050. We’re also committing ¥1.5 trillion (approximately $13 billion) to R&D that will further cut our carbon footprint and develop solutions to help our clients do so too.

And we’re already at work across Hitachi, Ltd. Hitachi Energy is helping decarbonize energy in the U.K., Scotland, Denmark and many countries across the world. Hitachi Energy is deploying its large-scale battery energy storage at one of the world’s most advanced charging stations, ensuring that electric vehicles in Køge, Denmark are powered by 24/7 renewable electricity. Renewable energy is often variable, creating fluctuations in supply that traditional electricity grids struggle to handle. Hitachi Energy recently launched new electric grid stabilizers that make it easier to integrate renewables into the grid by automatically releasing stored energy to balance against fluctuations.

Hitachi Rail is harnessing smart power grids and on-board energy storage to improve the efficiency of its trains, while reducing carbonization levels in both transit and freight. Launched in October 2021, a fully electric fleet carries train passengers between London and Edinburgh and is six times greener than the same journey by plane. Hitachi Rail is also receiving 100% renewable electricity from ScottishPower at its UK manufacturing and maintenance facilities.

And Hitachi Astemo, our automotive venture, is at the forefront of technological innovations that will help accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles. A new solution enables the installation of a vehicle’s entire direct-drive system into the wheel, thereby transmitting motor power directly to the wheel and eliminating energy loss from indirect components. The result is a 30 percent reduction in energy loss and a significant increase in EV range on a single charge compared to existing EVs.

These examples are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Hitachi’s efforts to reduce emissions and conserve our environment. We want to play an even larger and more multifaceted role in helping our clients and communities decarbonize. That’s why we participated in COP26, as a principal sponsor, and why I was proud to attend the summit with Hitachi’s chief environmental officer, Alistair Dormer, and Lorena Dellagiovanna, deputy chief environmental officer and chief diversity and inclusion officer.

COP26 may not have achieved all its goals, but it certainly energized us to act with greater purpose than ever before, and we’re ready to fight the good fight towards a cleaner and healthier planet for all.

We Need Data-Driven Solutions to Protect Our Planet

Data science and environmental science have a long, shared history when it comes to climate change. It was data, after all, that finally conclusively tied carbon emissions from human activity to climate change in the groundbreaking 1990 IPC Assessment Report.

Our future success in mitigating climate change will be equally tied to data. Data will be key to helping governments and private organizations better understand emissions and the environmental impact of operations, and to more quickly develop and test solutions that cut emissions.

For example, data will be vital to helping nations successfully transition from fossil fuels to renewables. Accurate and timely data about energy demand, and the supply of power from intermittent wind and solar power sources, will be critical to maintaining the stability of the electrical grid, and avoiding horrendous outages such as the one we saw in Texas, United States earlier this year.

Data will also be crucial to maximizing the availability of intermittent renewables by reducing downtime. Wind turbines, for example, are subjected continuously to the ravages of the weather, especially when located offshore, and are prone to break down as a result. But edge data from sensors mounted on turbines can help us prevent or more rapidly address outages. When you consider that an average wind turbine can power 1,500 homes for a year, any reduction in the amount of downtime reduction will have a meaningful impact on greenhouse gas emissions.

Data is also being used in new ways to protect our rainforests. We’ve been working with the non-profit organization Rainforest Connection to help local rangers in Sumatra, Indonesia, analyze acoustic data with ML and AI to help prevent illegal logging in Indonesian rainforests and help stem deforestation.

Down Under, data is being used to help Bartle Frere Bananas, one of Australia’s largest banana growers, to sustainably expand production and farming through data-driven initiatives that conserve and protect their surrounding ecoystem.

Based in the northeastern state of Queensland, Bartle Frere has deployed a combination of RFID and GPS tags, solar powered sensors, and a weather station to create insights around irrigation, fertilization and plant care. Their goal is simple: to put more sustainable bananas on every table in Australia.

Getting Even More Serious About Sustainability

Since our founding in 1910, Hitachi has taken its responsibility to society seriously. Today, we’re once again making a firm commitment to the communities and planet we serve by joining the UN’s Race to Zero campaign and committing to limit global temperature rise to 1.5⁰ C above preindustrial levels.

At Hitachi Vantara, that means moving rapidly to eliminate waste and packaging from our supply chain, and to transition to renewable power and reduced water consumption.

To learn more about our sustainability commitments and vision, please visit our webpage.

Gajen Kandiah is Chief Executive Officer at Hitachi Vantara.

[1] Fountain, Henry and White, Jeremy, “Rising From the Antarctic, a Climate Alarm. Wilder winds are altering currents. The sea is releasing carbon dioxide. Ice is melting from below.” New York Times