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Path to Net Zero

Increased Digital Technology Adoption Will Accelerate the Transition to Net-Zero

Ulrike Bahr-Gedalia

Senior Director, Digital Economy, Technology, and Innovation at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce

Yana Lukasheh

Vice-President of Government Affairs and Business Development of SAP Canada

In the race to combat climate change and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, nations of the world face a multitude of complex challenges that require innovative technology solutions to overcome. Canada’s own transition is multifaceted.

We will need a significant amount of ingenuity, creativity and cooperation to realize our lofty net-zero goals. Canada’s adoption of digital technology solutions will be foundational in ensuring a competitive future economy and enabling a climate that is resilient, circular, and emissions-free for a better life for all Canadians.

In an interview with Ulrike Bahr-Gedalia, Senior Director, Digital Economy, Technology, and Innovation at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Yana Lukasheh, Vice-President of Government Affairs and Business Development of SAP Canada, discusses the advantages of accelerating digital technology adoption to achieve net-zero objectives.

Ulrike Bahr-Gedalia: Canadian emissions are more than double the average of G20 nations. How can technology help decrease, and ideally eliminate, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions?

Yana Lukasheh:  We know so much more now about GHG emissions because of technology. Satellite and machine learning make it is easier than ever to identify emissions sources, support low-carbon alternatives, and halt further environmental damage through greater energy efficiency.

Digital technology solutions, such as real-time monitoring, predictive analytics, and artificial intelligence, enable organizations to reduce their energy consumption, enhance supply chain efficiency, optimize transportation routes, promote sustainable practices, and integrate renewable sources of energy, thus mitigating total emissions. Key advancements in digital technology solutions include:

  • Carbon accounting tools that enable accurate measurement and reporting of emissions, guiding reduction strategies.
  • Smart building management and circular economy initiatives that will further curtail emissions.
  • Data-driven insights that produce more informed decisions, which prioritize emissions reduction projects, while collaborative platforms foster knowledge sharing.

As we near 2030 emissions target deadlines, our best opportunity for success — while also ensuring data transparency — is adopting and properly leveraging digital technology. While Canada may not achieve its 2030 objectives, it must work towards the next milestones by harnessing the power of digital tools.  

Bahr-Gedalia: What are the biggest challenges with data, including data on Canada’s appetite for increased technology adoption which has often been pointed to as lagging?

Lukasheh: Data transparency — including accurate measurement, reporting, and verification of emissions reductions — is critical for tracking our progress towards net-zero goals. With many organizations lacking end-to-end business processes and supply chain visibility, developing standardized methodologies and ensuring transparency in reporting remains a challenge. This uneven playing field causes inaccurate climate related inventory and will increasingly become a costly burden if not addressed.

Digital technology empowers organizations to report on scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions while maintaining accurate and real-time sustainability data. This supports stronger identification of carbon impact throughout product life cycles and value chains, allowing for proactive adjustments throughout.

As part of Canada’s commitments towards the Paris Agreement, the Federal Government maintains a system for reporting on environmental indicators through the Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicator program. While the program serves an important purpose, it has been criticized for its lack of data quality and availability, inconsistent data collection methods, and inability to interpret trends.

A pan-Canadian sustainability data strategy founded on and continually fed accurate data will better inform policy makers to produce dynamic policies and regulations, and will also improve delivery of effective, equitable and inclusive investments. In order for that to be accomplished, both public and private sectors in Canada need to accelerate their technology adoption plans, taking into account these environmental indicators. Overcoming barriers to data sharing to unlock much needed innovation, discoveries and collaborations will need to be addressed to establish trust and tackle data siloes across economic sectors.

Bahr-Gedalia: Carbon offset and carbon capture are methods of reducing emissions, but is it possible to reach net-zero with these methods alone? What other, if any, technologies/innovations will be required?

Lukasheh: Fundamentally, digital technology adoption is imperative for any transition to a low-carbon resilient economy. As mentioned earlier, technology enables data transparency and facilitates organizations to report on scope emissions across enterprise activities. Responses to the energy transition that include resetting business models via technology adoption will ensure financial resilience and regulatory compliance.

Digital technology equips organizations with the insights necessary to reduce carbon emissions across their value chains and allows data exchange with customers, suppliers and business partners — including scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions. Simply put, when working towards a shared goal as crucial as net-zero, Canadians must have the best tools available to leverage our digital advantage.

Bahr-Gedalia: Small business is big business in Canada, with over 98% of our economy composed of SMEs. What’s their opportunity or challenge in this context?

Lukasheh: SMEs are Canada’s engine of growth and value creation. Though they often lead the charge when it comes to reimagining the status quo, they face serious challenges from burdensome compliance requirements to lack of resources, to supply chain hurdles, to capacity building, ultimately rendering sustainability a low priority.

The opportunity lies with innovation. Digital technology adoption, such as cloud computing, virtualization, and software-as-a-service solutions can significantly enhance SME operational efficiency, competitiveness, and overall business success by automating many routine and time-consuming tasks and reducing IT costs. Technology provides SMEs the ability to collect and analyze data about their operations, customers, and market trends, as well as make more informed decisions and identify areas for improvement. For example, ecommerce platforms and digital marketing tools enable SMEs to reach a global customer base, expanding market reach beyond local or regional boundaries.

By addressing these challenges through the adoption of innovative technologies, not only will SMEs gain a competitive edge in their industry and differentiate themselves from their competitors, but they will also have the capacity to prioritize sustainability. Additionally, these digital solutions can include the ability to measure, track, and report emissions, which in turn allows these SMEs to become leaders in achieving Canada’s net-zero goal.

Coming out of the United Nations General Assembly Climate Week last September and looking forward to the World Economic Forum COP28 debates, SAP emphasizes the need to adopt technology that addresses our environmental, social and economic challenges.

Bahr-Gedalia: How can technology “re-energize” Canada’s energy sector?

Lukasheh: The Canadian energy sector’s transition from fossil fuels to renewables is economically complicated as demand continually changes and costs rise.

In response, the sector is constantly seeking ways to fortify sources and manage costs, with the trend leaning towards a connected network of distributed energy sources. Cloud-connected AI technologies like machine learning, data analytics, and the Internet of Things (IoT) are driving the advancement of smart grids capable of managing complex power generation and distribution, thus ensuring peak performance without waste or unintended costs being incurred by Canadian consumers.

Bahr-Gedalia: What is the role of governments in Canada, in promoting digital technologies?

Lukasheh: Governments, of all levels, have a vital role to play in achieving net-zero and enabling climate-resilient and circular economies, which then further socioeconomic opportunities and environmental conditions. In addition to accelerating their own technology adoption journeys, federal, provincial, territorial and municipal governments should establish consistent data measurement standards and best practices, and encourage data sharing models to promote cooperation and catalyze digital transformation across all sectors of our Canadian economy.

Canada has an exciting tech industry, which should be leveraged to help decrease or eliminate emissions. Governments must incentivise R&D collaborations through public-private partnerships, lean on industry experts for the latest cutting-edge technologies, and develop digital skills programs in order to promote Canada as a destination for innovation on the global stage.

Canada has the industrial knowledge and digital technology solutions needed to ensure a just and economically-sound transition to net-zero.

For more information on the Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s priorities and advocacy efforts around digital technologies and the path to net-zero, please visit: https://chamber.ca/advocacy/

For more details on SAP Sustainability efforts and products, please visit https://www.sap.com/canada/sustainability/our-approach.html 

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