Reflections from COP28 and looking ahead to next year.

The 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was recently held in Dubai,… Read more on Cisco Blogs

Reflections from COP28 and looking ahead to next year.

The 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was recently held in Dubai, UAE, and brought government officials and heads of state, business leaders, young people, climate scientists, journalists and various experts together to accelerate global efforts to adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Reflections from COP28

I had the opportunity to spend a full week in meetings and sessions, and am energized by the engagement – early numbers of delegates indicate this is the most attended COP ever.

A common thread pulled through discussions surrounded the criticality of public/private partnerships. When we think about climate change, this is the crisis of our lifetime. The progress we make in this decade will be critical for future generations. As we look ahead to 2024, one thing is clear: we must drive action and we must do it together.

As I reflect on the conversations I had at COP28, five trends rose to the top and should be top of mind for all of us as we move into the new year.

Environmental sustainability trends for 2024 and beyond

1. 2024 will be a year of accounting for progress on climate action.

In 2015, the UN-brokered Paris Agreement established an international treaty on climate change. To limit global warming to 1.5°C, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions must peak before 2025 at the latest and decline 43% by 2030. Plans and targets were made by countries and organizations globally to achieve this.
As we get closer to that milestone, it’s becoming increasingly clear that there is no consistent or accurate way to measure progress, both within countries and industries, and globally, to hold us accountable.
Pressure is growing on both the public and private sector, with demands for mandatory reporting now a worldwide refrain.
Regulatory bodies are now considering approaches that can deliver concrete outcomes, but data sources are varied in quality, reporting is fragmented, and many organizations lack the technology to generate and analyze the data they require.
2024 could see this come to a head with the emergence of new industry standards with a focus on GHG emissions accounting and climate impact materiality. The tech industry can play a critical role in delivering enabling technologies that will help companies monitor and assess their footprint.

2. The world’s energy delivery systems will start to show major cracks in the next three years. Governments worldwide must prioritize and incentivize smart grid development in 2024 to avoid major issues.

Many traditional ‘power grids’ are already being stretched to their limits, and increasingly common weather phenomena will continue to add more and more stress. In the U.S., the North America Electric Reliability Corporation warned that much of the U.S. power grid is at an increased risk of failure during major storms or long cold snaps this winter.  (Source: 2023–2024 NERC Winter Reliability Assessment)
At the same time, the growth of renewables demands a more efficient grid to allow renewables to become more viable and avoid the conversion losses all too common in today’s grids. (Source: Digitalizing Europe’s energy system to power the green energy revolution)
Micro grids have already begun to show their viability, which may start encouraging more ideas in harnessing them.
In order to avoid dangerous and costly failures of energy delivery systems, businesses and the public sector must begin now to address the future needs of the grid.

3. The growth of artificial intelligence (AI) creates an opportunity to use this new technology to further our sustainability goals.

We know that AI workloads increase demand for electricity and water as they place enormous demands on data center infrastructure. (Source: The AI Boom Could Use a Shocking Amount of Electricity) But the benefits of AI for sustainability have the potential to outweigh that impact.
Like many other areas, data will be crucial to tackling sustainability challenges. With the promise of AI to make sense of data and offer crucial insights, sustainability could benefit greatly from the application of AI.
AI is only as good as the data it is being fed. So, the emergence of AI may also help solve another major challenge in sustainability: accurate and consistent measurement and the need for centralized and common tooling.

4. A 20-year-old technology, Power over Ethernet (PoE), will finally get its moment in 2024.

Power over Ethernet (the coupling of connectivity and power delivery on the same cable) was first adopted as an IEEE standard in 2003. Since then, use cases for PoE have been varied, but fairly niche, as the vastly preferred method of electrical connectivity remains copper wiring.
The need for buildings to become smarter has never been greater. Building operations and construction accounted for an estimated 37% of CO2 emissions globally in 2021. PoE will allow builders, owners and tenants to use the network to deliver power and connectivity together, enabling a true smart building.

5. Nature-based solutions to climate change will gain traction.

Technological developments are an important part of strategies to mitigate climate change, but discussions at COP28 reinforced the critical role of nature-based solutions, like protecting forests or restoring coastal marshes.
We must innovate and fill gaps in our understanding of nature-based solutions and when to use them. We must deliver climate mitigation, safeguard biological diversity, improve food security, and create more inclusive and resilient communities.
Anticipate an uptick in projects that leverage nature’s capabilities, such as afforestation, reforestation, and sustainable land management.

We’re at a pivotal moment, but with bold, strategic, and collective action, I believe we can help mitigate the worst outcomes of climate change, ensuring the opportunity to build an inclusive future for all.

Read more about what Cisco has accomplished around sustainability, and where we hope to make progress, in our 2023 Purpose Report.

 Cisco 2023 Purpose Report


  Mary de Wysocki, Cisco’s Chief Sustainability Officer, reflects on COP28 and five trends that should be top of mind for all of us to help mitigate the worst outcomes of climate change, ensuring the opportunity to build an inclusive future for all.  Read More Cisco Blogs