Techies tell BCS: More and richer data required if COP26 climate pledges are to be met

How can you get to net zero without knowing what's generating the nasties?

BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT in the UK is the latest to weigh in on the Net Zero debate, with a call for better data on what is generating C02 emissions in the office, at home and in transit.

The group highlighted a survey, which showed 71 per cent of tech pros were not confident the right data was in the right hands to achieve the lofty goal of Net Zero. A similar amount (61 per cent) said IT and digital tech were not being used effectively.

"The recent UK Government Budget announced record investment in research and development," said the institute, "but there is a need for clarity on how government plans to use this to fund the software, infrastructure technology and growing the data science industry to the levels needed to understand the data."

The UK government throwing money at a problem without really considering how it will be spent? Heaven forbid!

Almost a year ago, the Royal Society put forward a report suggesting that digital technology could account for a third in the reduction in emissions the UK is aiming for by 2030. A year on, however, and the BCS survey suggests there remains much to be done, not least knowing how much C02 is actually being produced by what.

Never ones to shy away from a bit of greenwashing, the tech giants have recently rolled out platforms to assist customers in working out what their cloud computing is costing the environment.

Google unveiled its Cloud Footprint in October closely followed by Microsoft's Azure Emissions Dashboard. Both intend to highlight the emissions arising from cloud workloads, although Google's tool might not be entirely accurate while Microsoft's platform requires a Power BI subscription to access.

And then there is the thorny subject of Microsoft's insistence that perfectly adequate PCs must be sent to a landfill and replaced by new kit to adequately run the Windows 11 operating system.

Microsoft has yet to comment on the environmental impact of manufacturing and shipping a new Surface device to replace hardware deemed unfit for purpose by the whim of its Windows division, however, it has promised that the hardware range will be 100 per cent recyclable in the not-too-distant future.

"By 2030, we will divert at least 90 per cent of the solid waste headed to landfills and incineration from our campuses and data centers, manufacture 100 percent recyclable Surface devices, use 100 per cent recyclable packaging (in Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, OECD, countries), and achieve, at a minimum, 75 per cent diversion of construction and demolition waste for all projects."

As the institute observed, those figures – and more – are required if IT is truly going to make a useful contribution to the UK's hoped-for reduction rather than instead simply contributing yet more hot air. ®


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