Reflections on our Digital and Climate Change COP 26 roundtable

November 17, 2021 by 2 Comments | Category Digital Scotland

Blog by Sam Cox, Policy Officer, People, Strategy, and Corporate Services Division.

In my last blog post, I walked you through the work that we had been doing in the lead-up to our round table at COP26 and why this work is important.

The roundtable took place on 2 November in Scotland’s Climate Ambition Zone in central Glasgow. The event was opened with a pre-recorded speech from Kate Forbes MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Economy. Ms Forbes emphasised the important role that digital will play in reaching net zero by 2045 and tackling the impacts of climate change in Scotland. She also noted that while COP26 is the driver for Scotland to go further, faster as we transition to net zero, it is just the beginning of the important work that Scotland will continue to deliver on to meet our goals.

Delegates who attended the roundtable came from cBrain Inc., COWI, Data for Children Collaborative with UNICEF, FarrPoint, Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, Nature Scot, Ofcom, Ofgem, SCDI, Scotland 5G Centre, ScotlandIS, Scottish Enterprise, and Scottish Government. This wide range of organisations from across Scotland and Denmark emphasised the need for continued collaboration on tackling climate change and ensuring that a diverse range of voices are heard as we continue working towards our net zero ambitions.

The roundtable discussions were guided by three themes each of which was introduced by a subject matter expert.

Theme One: Combatting the Cultural Issues Around the Adoption of Climate Technology

Our first theme was introduced by Nick Young from the Digital Economy and Data Driven Businesses division of the Scottish Government. His introduction covered the following points:

• Digital adoption has strong policy behind it and the Scottish Government is trying to grow that. They learned that due to the pandemic, more forced adoption that led to that. What have we learned about adoption? 95% are micro level businesses, so think how best reach businesses across Scotland.
• We all have a vital role to play in adoption of technology.
• Successful adoption: until fully adopted not successful – only 45% of businesses class investments on digital projects it as successful. This makes it difficult to encourage more investment unless we do more to support and change that viewpoint.
• The highest points of friction in Digital projects is rarely about funding the solution. Biggest issues are defining and maintaining the scope of the project, and implementation.
• Technology has a significant part to play in getting us to net zero. Noted only 30% of businesses have a net zero strategy [so point here is that 70% do not]

The discussions were guided by the following proposed questions:

• In your experience, what cultural barriers exist?
• Has anything been done to address these barriers?
• What is the role of leadership?
• What is the role of diversity?

Discussions centred around the importance of setting clear incentives for adopting climate technologies, giving people time to try out new technologies while providing the safety to fail, and seeing collaboration as a core driver of the success of the delivery in climate change goals. Delegates pointed out that leadership will be part of this through setting clear goals and measures to work towards.

Theme Two: Data is a Valuable Asset but Issues Remain With How Is it Used

Our second theme was introduced by Alex Hutchison, the Director for Data for Children Collaborative with UNICEF. She described how data is the key to producing a report to highlight the real risk that climate change poses on children and young people, now and in the future.

This covered:

• Collaborative project ran – with a range of people. How can use data to understand the impact that climate change is having on children.
• Data told us climate risk is different for children. Full report.
• Evidence based picture is key, but data can tell us a story, need to bring it to life with voices behind it. Think in our area what would our customers / stakeholders want to use technology to do – how can this lead to a culture change and help the environment.
• Are we comparing like with like, timeliness of data. To be able to know where we are now and where we are going we spoke about clear measures and having common standards.
• Data is a valuable asset.

The discussions were guided by the following proposed questions:

• What are the opportunities for engaging citizens in environment data, both to enrich the data we have available and to use data to activate behavioural change?
• How do we create the conditions for industry, public sector, academia and third sector to collaborate both in sharing data and solving problems?
• What are the strengths and weaknesses of the environment and land data ecosystem?

Discussions centred around the issues of establishing a baseline for environmental data (including data gaps, lack of common vocabulary and standards, and data being difficult to access and is not interoperable); the challenges between open data and data protection; and how can users tell the story behind the data and demonstrate where the use of data has made a positive impact.

Theme Three: Digital Needs to be Included at the First Instance Rather Than As An Afterthought

Our final theme was introduced by Clare Reid, the Director of Policy and Public Affairs at SCDI. She highlighted the key points from the recently published Innovation Critical report. Highlights from the report include:

• The identification of seven challenges facing the climate tech sector – from gaps in funding and skills to the need for new models of innovation to accelerate the adoption and scale of technological solutions;
• And the proposal of ten recommendations to address these challenges, including the launch of a new national innovation mission – the ‘Climate Tech Moonshot’ – with the aim of achieving at least one Climate Tech unicorn in Scotland by 2025.
• The report also makes the case for a new Climate Tech Accelerator and Cluster based on the successful FinTech Scotland model to provide enhanced and integrated funding and support.

The discussions were guided by the following proposed questions:

• How can we get people to better understand the role that digital plays in combatting climate change?
• How do we ensure that digital is not seen as an afterthought in climate change?

Discussions centred around the needs to increase investment at the ideas stage when ideas are still forming; embedding digital literacy from young to adult learning; ensuring there are consistent standards; and encouraging better use of data sharing outside of the public sector.

What’s next?

The discussions at the roundtable highlighted the important and leading role for collaboration between the government and the digital sector to provide actionable solutions to climate change problems in Scotland. It drove home that we need to ensure that our digital solutions to climate change problems are designed with people in mind and that they are woven into the continued economic recovery from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. These discussions provided us with new insights to deliver on our net zero commitments and with ideas on how to best support businesses as we transition to a greener future.

Now that the round table has concluded, we are circulating the notes taken at each table to those who attended the event. With these notes, we have included the top ideas from each theme, and have asked delegates to vote on which 3 ideas they think are the most important to take forward. While we will not be discarding the other important ideas that came up in the discussions, it would not be possible to progress all of them at the same time.

These top 3 ideas will be used to form the policy advice we present to Ms Forbes and the other relevant Ministers with a clear policy roadmap of how Scotland can leverage its digital capabilities to combat climate change and meet our net zero ambitions. This roadmap will meet the Ministerial expectations of showing what digital can do to combat climate change and how industries can be supported as this work progresses.

These ideas and the discussions at the roundtable have delivered on our Digital Strategy ambition of incorporating green thinking into all of our digital solutions and these findings will be kept in mind for future iterations of the Digital Strategy.

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