Tackling climate change challenges through data access – Microsoft and the ODI

Mon Oct 26, 2020
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As part of our global partnership with Microsoft, we have been conducting research into climate change to identify priority areas for increased access to data through data collaborations

As part of a global partnership between Microsoft and the ODI to encourage open, trustworthy data sharing and collaboration, we have been conducting research into climate change to identify priority areas for increased access to data through data collaborations.  

We have shortlisted six areas for further research. We will work with experts and the broader sustainability and climate change community over the next eight weeks to analyse the data ecosystem in these areas. We will review the types of organisations that hold data, the ways data is shared and used, existing collaborations around related datasets, and the challenges and opportunities that increasing access to data in these areas could lead to. We will then work with Microsoft and others to launch a new data collaboration in three of these priority areas, and will scope one data collaboration in 2021. We will revisit our shortlist in the second year of the partnership to ensure that the two other data collaborations contribute to tackling some of the world’s most pressing climate change challenges. 

The shortlisted climate change challenges are: 

  • Achieving net-zero value chains through better tracking of scope 3 emissions
    • Research indicates that the majority of companies’ emissions lie in scope 3 of the value chain. These are the indirect emissions that occur in the value chain around their products and services, both upstream and downstream (scope 1 covers direct emissions from owned or controlled sources and scope 2 covers indirect emissions from the generation of purchased energy). Improving the way data is collected, used and shared for calculating scope 3 emissions could help companies to significantly lower their emissions throughout their supply chains.  
  • Supporting a ‘green’ recovery from Covid-19
    • A sustainable recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic is vital to addressing climate change. Governments around the world have proposed various measures to drive transformation to a net-zero emissions economy. Joining up datasets related to the economy, population and health, society and work, agriculture, energy, transport and tourism is likely to bring huge benefits to the investment and policy decisions that are needed to recover from the pandemic.  
  • Improving building energy efficiency  
    • Buildings account for around a third of global energy related to carbon emissions, through the use of energy needed to heat, cool and power them. Improving energy efficiency is seen as the third component of emission reduction strategies, alongside electrification and renewable energy. Better collating data on building characteristics and energy use, coupled with new technologies for energy control and management, could drive significant improvements in their energy consumption. 
  • Improving water resource management  
    • Our water supplies are increasingly at risk from climate change, as well as a growing global population. The multiple uses of water – including for agriculture, industry and domestic purposes – makes collaboration around the management of water as a shared resource even more important. Collaborative approaches around water conservation, reuse and efficiency efforts, as well as collaboration in the data about these activities, can contribute to ensuring that water is available in adequate quantity and quality for both people and the world’s ecosystems.  
  • Reducing the climate impact of urban transportation 
    • Emissions from the transport sector are a major contributor to climate change — about 14% of annual emissions (including non-CO2 gases) and around a quarter of CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels. Cities around the world are developing solutions to transition towards climate-friendly mobility systems. New data-sharing models between public transport authorities, operators and industry leaders could inform and accelerate cities’ progress towards achieving the goals countries have committed to in the Paris agreement at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s (UNFCCC) 21st Conference of Parties in 2015 in Paris. The Paris Agreement aims to substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions in an effort to keep the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 °C (3.6 °F) above pre-industrial levels while pursuing means to limit the increase to 1.5 °C (2.7 °F). 
  • Reducing waste  
    • Over 11 billion metric tonnes of solid waste is produced globally each year. Waste not only pollutes our ecosystems, but its creation, distribution and disposal also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. Ensuring that high-quality data on all categories of waste – including hazardous, electronics and construction waste – is available and shared across stakeholders can help set goals and assess progress towards reducing waste and corresponding emissions.  

If you work with data to tackle any of the above topics or have feedback on how data could be better shared to accelerate progress in these areas, please get in touch at [email protected]