Away from artificial intelligence and its topics that filled the 2023 Web Summit activities, the last day of the summit – which concluded yesterday, Thursday in the Portuguese capital, Lisbon – was more serious in its topics, as the climate crisis and the role of technology companies in bringing about change was raised.
Technology and climate change
In a symposium entitled “How can technology change the climate crisis?”“ Sita Chantramonklasri, founder and director of Siam Capital, and Rebecca Parsons, chief technology officer at Thoughtworks, spoke and were interviewed by Andrew Fishman, co-founder and president of the news website The Intercept Brazil.
First, Fishman said that large companies – some of which are represented at the summit – are among the biggest polluters, but they also have great power to make positive change.
He added that, according to the United Nations, the technology industry is responsible for between 2 and 3% of all climate-harmful emissions, but he believes that technology can also bring about a revolutionary change in this matter. He said, “Being an environmental defender is no longer an option, but rather an obligation.”
In turn, Chantramonklasri said that the greatest challenge throughout our lives is the transition to sustainability, but at the same time it is one of the greatest opportunities for creating wealth.
She added that this is why she believes that the issue is very important, and that – in her opinion – it is not an environmental issue as much as it is an economic issue, and the industry has already begun to transform because people have become aware of this.
She said that technology companies should look at the matter as a business but it must be sustainable and profitable, as there cannot be sustainable long-term solutions if they are not ultimately cost-effective.
She also argues that consumers broadly have significant collective effects, but they will have to change every aspect of their lives – whether that be regulatory changes or environmental pressures – to force companies to change the way they do business.
For her part, Parsons expressed her belief that there are real efforts being made, and that the advantage that major technology providers have to some extent in this matter is that having a supply chain is much simpler than trading in consumer goods, noting that the issue is related to cost, so if sustainability Linked to a lower cost that could be achieved, stressing here the importance of data transparency as companies must disclose their initiatives and what they have saved as a result of what they have done.
She added that some industries will have to make radical change to address climate issues, and there will be new industries that rise up to fill gaps that may be created by things we should have done differently.
She said that we have to teach people that there are impacts of climate change, noting that this is a matter faced by some companies that are trying to provide sustainability, as people do not understand how this will affect their daily lives, as it is not only about climate change but about the long-term health of their families, and changing The way we talk can make a real difference.
In another symposium entitled “How can we decarbonize one of the world’s dirtiest industries?” In response to a question about the steel industry and its relationship to climate change and his company’s role in this field, Henrik Henriksson, CEO of the emerging “H2 Green Steel” company, said that steel is responsible for about 9% of global carbon dioxide emissions, and therefore it is a real pollutant, and it is one of the materials that we use. In our daily lives, whether in infrastructure, products we consume, etc.
But steel is also one of those products that can actually be produced relatively easily without carbon emissions, because it does not require repeating the entire industrial footprint. If you use, for example, brown or green steel, you can use exactly the same machines and tools to weld or press it.
He added that if we look at an electric car, for example, approximately 600 kilograms of its weight is steel, and when we buy an electric car, it is marketed as a carbon dioxide neutral product, and what companies are trying to do is to obtain sustainable materials as much as possible, as for the remaining part – It’s a lot – you buy CO2 certificates for it, which are traded on the European Union Emissions Trading System (EU-ETS), and today cost about 100 euros per ton of CO2.
He continued that companies compensate for sustainable materials by purchasing these certificates, and the total bill for doing so is about 500 or 600 euros, and the car companies believe that we, as consumers, are willing to pay it, because when we buy an electric car, we have awareness and some environmental agenda.
He said that the company “H2 Green Steel” provides an alternative for car companies. Instead of purchasing these certificates, they can obtain green steel, which costs less than the certificates. For example, one ton of steel causes the emission of two tons of carbon dioxide when it is currently produced, and what his company is doing What it does is that instead of paying 200 euros to get rid of two tons of carbon dioxide, you pay 150 euros to get much better materials.
Numbers at the conclusion of the summit and advice for innovators
The Web Summit 2023 was concluded by the Minister of Economy and Maritime Affairs of the Government of Portugal, Antonio Costa Silva, who reviewed the most prominent figures at the summit, such as the attendance of 70,236 people from 153 countries, the participation of 2,608 startup companies, 900 speakers, 321 partners, and more than 900 investors. He also said that 43% Of the attendees, 38% of the speakers are women.
The minister urged ambitious young people not to despair of achieving their dreams, and said that simple ideas changed the world, recalling as an example the global market for photography and cinematography in the sixties and seventies, where companies developed analog cameras that dominated the market, but there was an engineer. A brilliant young man named Stephen Sasson, who invented the first digital camera in 1975 and presented it to the board of directors of his company Kodak. He was almost expelled from the room under the pretext that his invention was worthless and that the market supported analog cameras. But what happened years later was that digital cameras dominated the market and Kodak went bankrupt. .