Earth Day 2023 - five ways tech can help the global sustainability imperative

Madeline Bennett Profile picture for user Madeline Bennett April 21, 2023
From renewables and carbon capture to EVs and AI - how the tech sector can help save the planet.


More than a billion people around the world will join forces this Saturday 22 April to mark Earth Day. The annual event aims to raise awareness of the need to protect our planet and highlight ways to do so.

This is an increasingly urgent task with each passing year, as highlighted by the latest climate change statistics. Since 1970, the year the first Earth Day was held, CO2 emissions have increased by about 90%, causing global warming levels to rise.

We’ve lost over 28 trillion tons of ice since 1994, and we’re still losing over one trillion tons a year. We’re also losing ten million hectares of forest every year, equivalent to an area the size of Portugal.

About two billion people worldwide still don’t have access to safe drinking water, often due to pollution and droughts caused by climate change. And up to one million of the eight million plant and animal species on our planet are at imminent risk of extinction.

The IPCC has recently warned we’re rapidly running out of time to prevent breaching the 1.5 degrees warming threshold, which would lead to widespread devastation and extreme weather.

To have any hope of preventing further damage to our planet, there’s a need to fast-track climate action on all fronts, and technology is often at the forefront. According to a report from the International Telecommunications Union, a United Nations body, digital technology could help reduce the world’s carbon emissions by about 17%.

Here are five ways the technology sector is helping to fight climate change.

Carbon capture

As carbon emissions from fossil fuels are one of the main proponents in climate change, finding ways to reduce the amount of CO2 that enters the atmosphere could make a real difference.

Carbon capture could play an important role here. Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology separates and compresses the carbon produced in industrial processes, so it can be stored rather than released into our atmosphere.

Climeworks opened the first direct air capture technology plant in 2017 to capture CO2 emissions so they can be buried deep underground rather than harm the earth’s atmosphere. Using its CCS tech, the firm is aiming to capture 1% of carbon emissions by 2025.

Efficient data centers

Data centers are very power-hungry, so anything that can be done to improve energy-efficiency could have a huge impact.

UK insurance giant Admiral Group’s switch to all-flash storage from Pure Storage resulted in significant data center optimization. This includes cutting the company’s data center footprint by a factor of four, and lowering power consumption and costs.

Admiral Group has committed to reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2040, and slashing data center power and cooling costs by 74%, and power consumption by 56 are significant step towards that goal.

Renewable energy

Renewable energy like wind and solar power is a vital tool in the climate change fight, powering our world with sources that naturally replenish rather than limited and dirty fossil fuels.

Renewable energy certificates are a way to promote the development of these clean energy sources. To increase supply in emerging markets, Salesforce is purchasing 280,000 megawatt hours (MWh) of renewable energy certificates over the next eight years. The CO2 emissions saved by this each year are equivalent to 113 million miles driven by an average car or 9,000 homes' electricity use for one year. 

Salesforce has teamed up with a provider offering Distributed Renewable Energy Certificates (D-RECs), which are restricted to small energy projects in emerging markets, regions still highly dependent on fossil fuels. The benefits of the D-REC approach are two-fold: first, displacing the dirtiest fuels like diesel generators and coal with renewable energy; and second, offering investment to the most in-need communities. 

Potential projects include replacing old diesel generators with a solar-powered microgrid for a remote community along the Amazon in Brazil; and a solar and storage installation at a hospital in Sub-Saharan Africa that will help improve electricity reliability for ventilators, organ support equipment and operating rooms.

Electric vehicles

The shift away from petrol and diesel to electric-powered vehicles has a key role to play in reducing emissions. Transport accounts for around 30% of global carbon emissions, with almost three-quarters coming from cars, vans, lorries and buses.

Delivery firm DPD has set itself the goal of achieving net zero by 2040, and electric vehicles (EVs) are one way it’s working towards this objective.

The firm currently has a fleet of 3,000 EVs. By the end of 2023, this will increase to 4,000 EVs, and DPD plans to replace all vehicles with a 100% electric fleet for the final mile by 2030.

Currently, about 25% of DPD deliveries are via green modes of transport. The firm is pushing to make that around 40% as it goes into 2024.

The shift away from fossil fuels to electric for its delivery vehicles is already making a positive impact for the environment.

During 2022, DPD delivered more than 35 million parcels via its all-electric final mile delivery fleet. This equates to over nine million kilograms of CO2e saved, or the CO2 absorption of 360,000 trees during one year. This was more than double the 2021 total of 17 million green deliveries across the business.

DPD has already made over 15 million green deliveries so far this year, putting the business on track to meet its 50 million goal for 2023.

AI for green transport

Public transport operator Keolis, which runs bus, tram, coach and train services across the globe, has recently started using fleet maintenance technology from Stratio to help cut emissions via more efficient public transport.

Stratio’s AI predictive maintenance technology collects and analyzes vehicle data to help predict component failures before they cause bus breakdowns, something which damages consumer trust in the reliability of public transport. 

The data is used to spot patterns that indicate possible failures, and assesses and promotes eco-driving strategies to reduce emissions across internal combustion engine (ICE) fleets. 

The Stratio technology is also supporting Keolis’ transition to electric vehicles. The data collected offers insights into practical ways to maintain and optimize EV battery life, a crucial aspect of switching from diesel-powered coaches and buses to electric vehicles. 

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